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The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Fleet

SHIP CLASSIFICATIONS

There are approximately 40 vessels classified as icebreakers currently operated by 12 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Panama, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Ice-strengthened vessels are also used by Canada, Chile, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Icebreakers are classified and certified by only 10 of the more than 50 existing organizations worldwide that classify sea-going vessels. Despite this limited number of organizations, no standard classification for icebreakers exists as each organization has a unique classification system for these ships. Consequently, icebreakers operating on the world market have a wide-range of operational capabilities. Since 2002, Det Norkse Veritas (DNV), the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), and Lloyd’s Register (LR) have been collaborating to develop unified classification requirements (Helsinki Commission Ice EWG, 2003); and the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) has been developing Unified Requirements for Polar Ships.

Although the Polar Ice Operations Mission Analysis Report (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005) defined and employed the standard U.S. Coast Guard operational classifications of the types of polar-capable ships (i.e., heavy, medium, and light icebreakers, and ice-strengthened vessels), the Committee concluded that these operational classifications cannot be used to adequately describe and compare the performance of icebreakers in various environmental conditions. Thus, for the purpose of this interim report, the Committee will only use the operational classifications developed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Heavy icebreakers are defined as ships that have icebreaking capability of 6 feet of ice continuously at 3 knots, and can back and ram through at least 20 feet of ice. Ice strengthened ships can break less than 3 feet of ice continuously at 3e knots and can back and ram through at least 3 feet of ice. Several important factors determine how well an icebreaker can accomplish its icebreaking mission: (1) propulsion power, which depends to some extent on the type of propulsion (e.g., diesel, diesel electric, nuclear), (2) momentum, which is calculated by multiplying the ship’s displacement (weight) with the ship’s speed while traversing ice-ridden waters, and (3) hull shape. To be categorized as a polar icebreaker by the U.S. Coast Guard, an icebreaker must have propulsion power greater than 10,000 horsepower and a minimum displacement of 6,000 tons (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005).



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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment 3 The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Fleet SHIP CLASSIFICATIONS There are approximately 40 vessels classified as icebreakers currently operated by 12 countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Panama, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Ice-strengthened vessels are also used by Canada, Chile, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Icebreakers are classified and certified by only 10 of the more than 50 existing organizations worldwide that classify sea-going vessels. Despite this limited number of organizations, no standard classification for icebreakers exists as each organization has a unique classification system for these ships. Consequently, icebreakers operating on the world market have a wide-range of operational capabilities. Since 2002, Det Norkse Veritas (DNV), the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), and Lloyd’s Register (LR) have been collaborating to develop unified classification requirements (Helsinki Commission Ice EWG, 2003); and the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) has been developing Unified Requirements for Polar Ships. Although the Polar Ice Operations Mission Analysis Report (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005) defined and employed the standard U.S. Coast Guard operational classifications of the types of polar-capable ships (i.e., heavy, medium, and light icebreakers, and ice-strengthened vessels), the Committee concluded that these operational classifications cannot be used to adequately describe and compare the performance of icebreakers in various environmental conditions. Thus, for the purpose of this interim report, the Committee will only use the operational classifications developed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Heavy icebreakers are defined as ships that have icebreaking capability of 6 feet of ice continuously at 3 knots, and can back and ram through at least 20 feet of ice. Ice strengthened ships can break less than 3 feet of ice continuously at 3e knots and can back and ram through at least 3 feet of ice. Several important factors determine how well an icebreaker can accomplish its icebreaking mission: (1) propulsion power, which depends to some extent on the type of propulsion (e.g., diesel, diesel electric, nuclear), (2) momentum, which is calculated by multiplying the ship’s displacement (weight) with the ship’s speed while traversing ice-ridden waters, and (3) hull shape. To be categorized as a polar icebreaker by the U.S. Coast Guard, an icebreaker must have propulsion power greater than 10,000 horsepower and a minimum displacement of 6,000 tons (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005).

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment DETERMINATION OF U.S. POLAR ICEBREAKING REQUIREMENTS In 1984 the United States Polar Icebreaker Requirements Study was published. This interagency report (undertaken jointly by the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Office of Management and Budget) assessed the long-term national needs for a polar icebreaking capability and icebreaking requirements, and recommended that four polar icebreakers would be required to meet national and program requirements through the year 2000. In 1990 the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Office of Management and Budget prepared an updated report to the President on polar icebreaker requirements, as requested in section 23 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-448) and in report language with the 1990 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (Public Law 101-165). This report reiterated that “As instruments of national policy and presence, icebreakers are necessary to meet the legitimate needs of national defense and security, to demonstrate the full range of national sovereignty, and to protect economic interests and to fulfill scientific research requirements” (1990, p. 7). However, it went on to say that two heavy icebreakers were capable of satisfying the defense requirements, but incapable of satisfying non-defense missions on a sustained basis. As noted in the report, the recommended number of icebreakers was determined more by budgetary constraints than by national and programmatic needs: the required allotment of operational days of an ice-capable ship was reduced by 50 percent based on the Government Accountability Office projected budget shortfalls. This adjustment, in essence, removed one heavy icebreaker from the national needs posture based solely on budget forecasts and without supporting operational analysis (Executive Office of the President, 1990; Booz Allen Hamilton 2005), reducing the assets required from 5.1 to 4.06 icebreakers. The 1990 Polar Icebreaker Requirements Report, however, failed to address the capability required of these icebreakers and equated an ice-strengthened research ship to a heavy icebreaker. As a result of these studies, the United States currently has three polar icebreakers, all under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard—the HEALY (commissioned in 2000), the POLAR SEA (commissioned in 1978), and the POLAR STAR (commissioned in 1976). ROLES AND CAPABILITIES OF CURRENT U.S. ICEBREAKER FLEET The HEALY is the most technologically advanced polar icebreaker, designed specifically as a dual purpose ship—a polar icebreaker/research vessel—to conduct regular U.S. Coast Guard missions and specifically to meet the needs of scientists working in the Arctic. The HEALY’s performance tests (Sodhi et al., 2001) and practical experience has shown that the vessel is capable of operating successfully in challenging ice conditions beyond the “light” classification. The HEALY measures 420 feet long by 82 feet in beam and is powered by a 30,000 horsepower diesel electric propulsion plant; it has a displacement of approximately 16,000 tons; it is designed to break 4½ feet of ice at a continuous 3 knots, and can operate in temperatures as low as -50°F (Booz Allen Hamilton, 2005). Although the HEALY has been used in the Southern Ocean to supplement the POLAR SEA on one occasion, it is not designed to deal routinely with ice conditions in McMurdo Sound.

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment Since being launched, the HEALY has proven capable of supporting a wide range of research activities, providing more than 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space, numerous electronic sensor systems, oceanographic winches, and accommodations for up to 50 scientists. At a time when scientific interest in the Arctic Ocean basins and shelf areas is intensifying and commercial interests appear to be significantly increasing, the HEALY substantially enhances the U.S. Arctic research capabilities. The HEALY is also a capable platform for supporting traditional U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Department of Homeland Security missions in the polar regions, including logistics, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection, and enforcement of laws and treaties. This ship has performed well, overcoming some initial skepticism about whether such a dual use vessel could successfully meet diverse needs. Several federal agencies, beyond the National Science Foundation, utilize the HEALY, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. A reliable and fully operational HEALY is essential to the successful execution of all missions of national interest in the Arctic, including the support of science. The most powerful of the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet are the two Polar Class icebreakers—the POLAR STAR and the POLAR SEA. They are classified as heavy icebreakers. The POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR were state-of-the-art in design, power, strength, and weight and incorporated many innovative features when built in the 1970s. They are each 399 feet in length by 83 feet in beam, and designed to break 6½ feet of ice at a continuous 3 knots. Two separate propulsion systems were built into the ships: 18,000 horsepower diesel-electric motors for “normal” icebreaking and 60,000 horsepower continuous (75,000 horsepower maximum) gas turbines for heavy ice conditions, such as continuous breaking of thick multi-year ice or backing and ramming operations in ridged ice. The Polar Class icebreakers were designed with 30-year service lives, to support the McMurdo break-in and a variety of science and logistics missions in the Arctic. Although they were built with basic science facilities, POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR received substantial science upgrades in the late 1980s. Currently, each ship has five laboratories and accommodates up to 20 scientists and technicians, as well as cranes and work areas capable of supporting studies in geology, volcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics, and other research topics. Each ship can carry seven portable science laboratories or containers on the deck. All three U.S. Coast Guard polar icebreakers have flight decks and each is capable of sheltering two helicopters. These aircraft are essential for assessing ice conditions. Helicopter capabilities also support other missions such as logistical support, search and rescue, sea ice reconnaissance, and science operations. In a majority of the polar regions, aircraft operations off the deck of an icebreaker constitutes the only way in which the United States can project light, field-landing-capable air power. For example, virtually all air operations involving over-sea ice and over-water flight in the Antarctic require an icebreaker flight deck for launch and recovery. In the past, the POLAR STAR and POLAR SEA have carried out a variety of traditional U.S. Coast Guard and science missions in the Antarctic and the Arctic. Then, a typical mission profile for each ship was to break the channel to McMurdo Station in one year, meanwhile supporting some marine science tasks as feasible, and, during the following year, focusing on Arctic missions. The other heavy icebreaker was used in the Antarctic in the successive years, so that each had a two-year cycle of polar missions. While en-route to Antarctica, these ships support some science missions such as tending automatic weather stations in the Pacific. In addition, these ships have supported scientific research on bird and penguin populations, the

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment marine biology and chemistry of the Ross Sea, and the fish populations at the sea ice margin and mapped the continental shelf in the Ross Sea. In recent years, due to the deteriorated condition of these ships and the heavy ice conditions in McMurdo Sound, it has been necessary to restrict use of the icebreakers to support the McMurdo break-in. Currently, in the Antarctic the primary role of the heavy icebreakers is to support the U.S. Antarctic Program and scientific research community by breaking a channel through the sea ice to allow a fuel tanker and a cargo ship (with food and supplies) to off-load at McMurdo Research Station in the Ross Sea. McMurdo Station is the primary support hub for all U.S. activities in the interior of the continent, including South Pole Station. CURRENT STATUS OF U.S. POLAR ICEBREAKERS Both the POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR have been in service for 28 and 29 years, respectively, and are approaching the end of their design service lives. Necessary maintenance has been deferred on both polar icebreakers due to the lack of funding, and this has created major mission-readiness issues. Consequently, both ships are inefficient to operate because they now require substantial and increasing maintenance efforts to keep vital ship systems, such as the main propulsion motors, operating, and their technological systems are becoming increasingly obsolete. These conditions are increasing the risk of operational failure and are placing national programs and missions in the Arctic and the Antarctic at risk. In 2002-2003, the POLAR STAR was not mission-capable, and severe ice conditions in the Ross Sea necessitated that the HEALY assist the POLAR SEA in the McMurdo channel clearing. Although shifting the HEALY to the Antarctic offered a one-time solution to the problem, it is not a long-term option. The use of the HEALY in the Antarctic during this time significantly impacted the science missions in the Arctic, as many science missions were postponed. Beyond the impact on Arctic science, U.S. Coast Guard personnel reported that the HEALY could not turn as effectively as required in the tight space near McMurdo Station. In 2004-2005, unusually heavy ice conditions again necessitated use of two heavy icebreakers. At this time, the POLAR SEA was in dry dock and not mission-capable. The National Science Foundation was forced to contract the services of the Russian icebreaker KRASIN, operated by the Far East Shipping Company (FESCO). Currently, only one U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker, the POLAR STAR, is capable of supporting the re-supply operation in Antarctica, but the NSF is concerned about the reliability of this ship. In a recent briefing, the NSF informed the Committee that an agreement had been reached with FESCO to hire the KRASIN to break the channel to McMurdo Station for the 2005-2006 re-supply mission and that the POLAR STAR will remain on “standby” in port in Seattle to assist the KRASIN if needed. The U.S. Coast Guard further informed the Committee that at the end of Deep Freeze ‘06, the POLAR STAR will be put it in “caretaker” status and the crew will be reduced from approximately 135 to 35 while it remains pier-side in Seattle. It will remain in this state indefinitely until a budget decision can be made to either properly repair it or possibly decommission it. Meanwhile, POLAR SEA will receive the minimum funding necessary to complete its repairs to make it mission-capable to support Deep Freeze ‘07. In response to the deteriorating status of the heavy icebreakers, the National Science Foundation recently completed a study of modes of re-supply of the McMurdo and South Pole Stations, including alternatives with less reliance on Coast Guard icebreakers. This study (NSF, 2005) concluded that icebreaker support for the U.S. Antarctic re-supply would remain essential for the foreseeable future, but that alternative methodologies should be put into place to partly

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment ameliorate the effects of an occasional missed vessel-borne fuel and cargo delivery to McMurdo Station. One recommendation in the NSF sub-Committee report is to contract the required icebreaker support through other nations or private companies while performing the needed maintenance on the U.S. Coast Guard polar icebreakers, as a short-term bridge strategy. For the longer term, the NSF sub-Committee study recommends conduct of a detailed investigation of the costs and benefits of obtaining a new U.S. McMurdo break-in capable icebreaker through the U.S. Coast Guard, commercially, or other means. Providing an icebreaker capable of handling the rigorous ice conditions in McMurdo Sound is a critical problem for the next 4 to 8 years, which is the minimum amount of time required to either build a new ship(s) or extend the service life of the current ship(s). While the HEALY is capable of supporting the McMurdo break-in, it is primarily tasked to support Arctic science. If this ship is used in the Antarctic, then Arctic science missions are directly impacted as was the case in 2002-2003. A reliable and fully operational HEALY is essential to successful executions of many science missions in the Arctic and under the current budget agreement the NSF will provide funds for the HEALY to continue operations in the Arctic. Contracting ships of other nations on a year-by-year basis is not a dependable long-term solution. Only a few icebreakers are capable of supporting this mission in a timely manner, and many of these ships have been contracted for the next several years due to emerging resource exploitation in northern latitudes (Mikko Niini, Aker Technology, Inc., personal communication). Due to rapidly aging mechanical systems, deferred routine and major maintenance due to reduced funding over recent years, and recent increased Antarctic operational requirements, both the POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR now require annual extensive, expensive repairs to enable readiness for sea. A regular and fully funded repair and maintenance schedule would only keep the ships mission-capable for several more years, but may provide a bridge to the long-term solution. Many of the experts and stakeholders who spoke to the Committee stated that the resolution of this funding dilemma to provide mission capable ships is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed before the long-term solution can be found. MANAGING THE U.S. POLAR ICEBREAKERS Until 2005, the U.S. Coast Guard has been responsible for operating and maintaining these ships. Budget base transfers in the 1970s and 1980s placed annual funding resources in the budgets of agencies with programs benefiting from icebreaker support in that era, including the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Maritime Administration. Memoranda of Agreement implemented these budget transfers to the U.S. Coast Guard by providing for incremental reimbursement of deployment-related expenses (primarily fuel and other consumables). Changes in programs and levels of user-agency funding resulted in the decommissioning of older icebreakers in the late 1980s, and some changes were made in the reimbursement formula, but the general concept of agencies “buying” operational icebreaker days continued until 2005. It should be noted that while the U.S. Coast Guard retained a budget base for icebreaker crews, maintenance, training, and other support to ensure the ships were ready for operations, it has not had identified budget funding to deploy icebreakers solely for its own mission responsibilities.

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment For fiscal year 2006, the President’s budget, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, transferred the budget authority for these ships to the National Science Foundation, while the Coast Guard was to retain custody of the three polar icebreakers and continue to operate and maintain this fleet. Congress enacted this one-time-transfer of $48 million from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Science Foundation, which was intended to offset all direct costs associated with the polar icebreaking program, including personnel, training, operation and maintenance. These funds constitute the Coast Guard’s entire non-capital budget for polar icebreakers. This amount, however, is essentially less than two-thirds of the $65-75 (Science, 2005) million that the U.S. Coast Guard estimates it will cost to maintain the ships. Congress finalized the transfer of funds in CONFERENCE REPORT (H. REPT. 109-272) between the House and Senate Appropriations Committees that are responsible for the NSF. According to briefings received from the budget examiners from the Office of Management and Budget (October 7, 2005), this action was based on the fact that the vast majority of icebreaker ship time has been employed for scientific research. The availability and readiness of the polar icebreakers to address other national needs such as law enforcement, marine pollution response, search and rescue, providing a U.S. presence, and defense operations was not cited as a factor in the decision to transfer the ships to the NSF. With this transfer, the NSF assumed control of the polar icebreaker program and a MOA between the USCG and the NSF regarding polar icebreaker support and reimbursement was established in August, 2005. The purpose of this MOA, provided to the Committee by the USCG, is to “implement the [then proposed] budget base transfer for use of the USCG icebreakers for scientific and operational support for all planned USCG operations for FY2006 and beyond.” Under the 2005 MOA, the NSF agrees to consider all national priorities and maintenance requirements when allocating the limited budget. In addition, the NSF will identify icebreaker mission needs for the succeeding fiscal year to the USCG. The MOA acknowledges that the “USCG has agreed to support Canadian logistical requests in the Western Arctic, scheduled on a situational basis, in accordance with an annual advanced planning process, to gain Canadian icebreaker support of U.S. facilities in the Eastern Arctic. If Canadian icebreaker resources are not available in the Eastern Arctic, USCG polar icebreaker resources may need to be reprioritized.” The responsibilities of the USCG under this agreement are scheduled on an annual basis by the NSF. The U.S. Coast Guard has agreed to provide support staff and services necessary to operate and maintain the polar icebreaker fleet and to inform the NSF of secondary polar icebreaker missions as they occur. These missions include the traditional USCG missions of the polar icebreakers (search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties) that were conducted as needed and funded from the base funding. Under this agreement, the U.S. Coast Guard will continue to perform these missions (as needed), and the NSF will continue to fund these missions from the program base that was transferred to the NSF in FY06. In addition, if a situation arises that requires long-term polar icebreaker involvement (major marine pollution or humanitarian relief efforts), then funding and scheduling impacts will be coordinated between the USCG and the NSF. In the current budgeting scenario for FY06, USCG will prepare a “program plan” that outlines their needs for conducting readiness exercises or other training in support of science and the broader icebreaker missions, which will be reviewed by the NSF budget and operations personnel and subject matter experts (e.g., maritime engineers). USCG personnel will assist in the review as needed. Upon mutual agreement of the parties, the NSF will approve the plan and

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment provide USCG with a letter of intent documenting the amount of funding to be provided in the subsequent fiscal year. IMPLICATIONS FOR NATIONAL INTERESTS The transfer of budget authority for the polar icebreaking program from the USCG to the NSF has several implications for national interests in the polar regions. The United States is an Arctic nation, with national interests that must be protected at all times. National security and defense interests in the Arctic include the enhancement of regional stability by protecting the U.S. citizens in Alaska, our Arctic maritime borders, and the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Economic interests include maritime commerce and protection of our natural resources and environment as well as the protection of our Exclusive Economic Zone from illegal activity. Protection of these interests in the Arctic primarily falls to the U.S. Coast Guard Ice Operations, whose mission is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests, through law enforcement, marine pollution response, search and rescue, providing a U.S. presence, defense operations, support for diplomatic treaty activities, support for the Department of Defense, and support for scientific research in the polar regions. Until recently, the U.S. Coast Guard had budget authority to oversee the polar icebreakers, which were used to fulfill these missions as needed. Although the majority of ship time for the U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers has been allocated to scientific research and logistics and funded by the scientific community, funding for crews and mission training were covered under the budget of the U.S. Coast Guard. In the current budget situation, funding for all U.S. Coast Guard personnel and activities involving the polar icebreakers is under the control of the National Science Foundation. The core mission of the National Science Foundation is “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense.” While the mission of the National Science Foundation does involve national defense, this is accomplished through funding scientific research that can be used in the defense of our nation and does not include participating in law enforcement or combat situations. Under the current MOA between the NSF and the USCG regarding polar icebreaking, the USCG must develop a yearly plan that includes costs for personnel, ship maintenance, and mission training. While the MOA provides funding from the program base for the secondary missions, such as search and rescue and enforcement of laws and treaties, no specific funding is identified for mission training. Funds for all training activities including search and rescue as well as science operations, must be included in the plan that is subject to the NSF approval. The immediate problem involving the polar icebreakers is that given the current mode of operation, activity is underfunded. Moving budget authority for the icebreaking program to the NSF does not address the base funding problem and increases the difficulty of management because management decisions related to the polar icebreakers are now spread across two agencies. Currently, the polar icebreakers are dual purpose ships, meeting both the NSF and the USCG mission responsibilities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that over 90 percent of the ship deployment time is in support of science primarily utilized by the NSF, although NOAA has recently used roughly 30 percent of available time on the HEALY. These ships, however, are necessary to support other U.S. Coast Guard traditional missions (e.g., national and homeland security, maritime safety, search and rescue), and these missions will increase in the future if human presence in the Arctic increases due to climate changes and emerging economic

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Polar Icebreaker Roles and U.S. Future Needs: A Preliminary Assessment opportunities. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that limited budgets keep these ships in port unless other agencies provide deployment funds. Having been given budget authority over the icebreaking program, the NSF is now fiscally responsible for missions outside its core mission and expertise. Without budget authority, the U.S. Coast Guard has been put in a situation in which it has the role of operating a ship for which it does not have full management control. Issues such as how to fund or choose among crew training alternatives for non-science missions is not fully under their control. The Committee believes that the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaking mission transcends the support of science despite the fact that the majority of icebreaker usage at the current time is to support science. There remains a need for USCG operations to support its other missions, and this need may increase in the future in the Arctic. The Committee strongly believes that management responsibility should be aligned with management accountability.