ciated with specific projects, shall be allocated to the United States Coast Guard.”

33 U.S.C. 1254 authorizes the Coast Guard to cooperate with the Environmental Protection Agency in research related to the removal, prevention, control, and elimination of oil and hazardous substance pollution.

33 U.S.C. 1441-1442 requires the Coast Guard, jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce, to conduct research on ocean dumping as may affect oceanic and coastal waters, and the Great Lakes and its connecting waters.

46 U.S.C. 738-738d authorizes the Coast Guard to provide the patrol services required for the International Ice Patrol established therein and to annually report on the services so rendered.

49 U.S.C. 101 establishes as National Transportation Policy, the facilitation of commerce.


The following treaties and agreements affect U.S. icebreaker responsibilities and operations. A variety of other international conventions and protocols address general maritime issues such as safety at sea and, especially, maritime pollution prevention and response. In general, these protocols and conventions apply to ice-covered waters of the polar regions.

The Antarctic Treaty (1959) provides the fundamental basis for U.S. policy and presence in Antarctica. The 27 countries with consultative status have adopted over 200 recommendations and five separate international agreements, which together constitute the Antarctic Treaty System. The five international agreements are:

  • Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964).

  • Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972).

  • Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980).

  • Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (1988).

  • Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991).

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 157 nations have signed the UNCLOS, which entered into force in 1994. Although the United States has not ratified the treaty, no significant U.S. objections remain and action by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ratify is expected. Under Article 76 of the treaty, a coastal state may claim jurisdiction over the seabed and subsoil of “submerged extensions of the continental margin” beyond their current exclusive economic zone (EEZ). An Article 76 claim is based on a set of limit lines defined from the depth and shape of the seafloor, the thickness of the underlying sediments, and other geophysical evidence such as gravity or magnetics. This UNCLOS article is particularly relevant to the Arctic Ocean basin, which features a pronounced but poorly mapped continental margin and is subject to conflicting claims by Arctic nations (including the United States). USCGC HEALY has mapped ice-covered Arctic Ocean bathymetry with its bottom-mapping sonar during two cruises (2003 and 2004).

Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada on Arctic Cooperation. This agreement, signed on January 11, 1988, resulted from USCGC POLAR SEA’s transit of the Northwest Passage in the summer of 1985. POLAR SEA proceeded from east to west through the Canadian Archipelago as the most expeditious route to homeport in Seattle following operations around Greenland; the transit was not intended to reinforce the U.S. view that the passage is an international strait, but it aroused significant Canadian media interest. Many in Canada believed the U.S. was purposefully flaunting Canadian sovereignty. The agreement was fashioned to allow future icebreaker operations while allowing both nations to reserve their positions on the status of the Northwest Passage. It has been used successfully in subsequent years for U.S. icebreaker transits.

The agreement reads as follows:

  1. The Government of the United States and the Government of Canada recognize the particular interests and responsibilities of their two countries as neighbouring states in the Arctic.

  2. The Government of Canada and the Government of the United States also recognize that it is desirable to cooperate in order to advance their shared interests in Arctic development and security. They affirm that navigation and resource development in the Arctic must not adversely affect the unique environment of the region and the well-being of its inhabitants.

  3. In recognition of the close and friendly relations between their two countries, the uniqueness of ice-covered maritime areas, the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the marine environment of the Arctic through research conducted during icebreaker voyages, and their shared interest in safe, effective navigation off their Arctic coasts:

    • The Government of the United States and the Government of Canada undertake to facilitate navigation by their icebreakers in their respective Arctic waters and to develop cooperative procedures for this purpose;

    • The Government of Canada and the Government of the United States agree to take advantage of their icebreaker navigation to develop and share research information, in accordance with generally accepted principles of international law, in order to advance their understanding of the marine environment of the area;

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