TABLE 10.2 Nominal Operational Profiles for a Renewed Polar Icebreaker Fleet

Icebreaker

Anticipated Tasking

HEALY

All seasons: Research support in the western Arctic (Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas); eastern Arctic (Baffin Bay, Greenland Sea, and contiguous waters); central Arctic Basin (multiship operations);participation in international expeditions and cruises; maintenance in homeport scheduled between missions

New Icebreaker No. 1

March-June and September-December (shoulder seasons): Patrol presence in Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas for search and rescue, law enforcement, environmental protection and response, vessel assistance, science of opportunity, and maritime safety and security

Other months: Arctic logistics, science, or other missions as needed; maintenance in homeport

New Icebreaker No. 2

November-April: McMurdo break-in as primary or secondary icebreaker; Antarctic Treaty inspections and enforcement, logistics, and science support (e.g., dual ship operations with PALMER)

May-October: Arctic logistics, science, or other missions as needed; maintenance in homeport

PALMER and PRV

All seasons: Research support in waters surrounding Antarctica; maintenance scheduled between missions

it is impossible to forecast precisely how trends in the Arctic and Antarctic would require icebreaker support. However, the table shows how restoration of U.S. icebreaking capability might provide a flexible, active, and influential presence in both polar regions. The committee anticipates that the HEALY would be dedicated to research support in the Arctic and would undergo maintenance in its homeport between missions. Similarly, the PALMER or PRV would be dedicated to supporting scientific research in the Southern Ocean. The first new polar icebreaker could operate in the Arctic during the “shoulder seasons” between March and June and September and December. This ship could provide a patrol presence in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, as well as support search and rescue, law enforcement, environmental protection and response, vessel assistance, science of opportunity, and maritime safety and security. In the other months, this ship could be used to support Arctic logistics, science, or other missions and undergo maintenance in its homeport as needed. The second new polar icebreaker could be tasked to support operations in the Antarctic from November to April. This ship may be used from November to April as the primary or secondary icebreaker in the McMurdo break-in, to support Antarctic Treaty inspections, and to provide logistics and science support alone or with the PALMER. From May to October the second icebreaker can be used to support Arctic logistics, science, or other missions as needed or can undergo maintenance in its homeport.

SHIP RENEWAL AND TRANSITION SCHEDULE

Today, the United States has inadequate icebreaking capability. In this section the committee discusses reconstituting a fleet. The committee assumes that two new polar ships will be built by the U.S. Coast Guard and delivered in 2014 and 2015. This is an ambitious schedule, but as a nation we are so late in recognizing the age and condition of the polar icebreaker fleet that we must act with speed and determination. The committee acknowledges that this transition may have to be sustained for a longer time and assumes that the HEALY will need a mid-life upgrade in about 12 years. It also assumes that NSF will extend the life of the existing PALMER or replace it. This would be an increase in icebreaking capability (for McMurdo resupply) only if the PRV were a Polar class icebreaker.

A key element of this schedule is to maintain one U.S. Coast Guard polar ship, the POLAR SEA, as the interim capability, with the POLAR STAR in layup (at the pier in Seattle) as an emergency backup if the POLAR SEA cannot be maintained as operational. The committee recognizes that it would take almost a year to bring the POLAR STAR back to operational status, even on an emergency upgrade schedule. U.S. icebreaking capability will not become adequate until the first new polar ship comes into service. This is a situation that the United States has created by previous inaction. The committee advises that it will be more effective to make arrangements with other nations or commercial firms to augment the shortfall in capability in the short term, rather than bring both existing Polar class ships to operational status. Emphasis should be to build new ships, rather than upgrade existing ships for short-term service.

There are two strategies available to keep the POLAR SEA operational through 2014 and in layup status to 2019 as an emergency backup to the new polar vessels and possibly the HEALY mid-life upgrade. Both strategies rely on the fact that POLAR SEA received significant maintenance and upgrade work at a cost of $30 million in 2006.

In one strategy, the POLAR SEA would be upgraded a second time in 2012 at a cost of approximately $40 million. POLAR SEA upgrades would include the following:

  • Maintenance and repair upgrades to the engine and propulsion systems



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