breaking capability for use in both the Arctic and the Southern Ocean. As concluded by the 2011 NRC report National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces, “future U.S. national icebreaker assets should be defined as part of a holistic force structure that also accommodates ongoing National Science Foundation-sponsored polar research needs.”
Icebreakers that can navigate in multiyear ice of Antarctica represent one of the most expensive infrastructures for Southern Ocean oceanographic and biological research and for access to coastal regions of East Antarctica as well as stations in West Antarctica and the vital resupply route to McMurdo. There are several options if the United States wishes to pursue its own national icebreaking capability. The range of heavy icebreaking capabilities appropriate for Antarctica year-round operations is PC 1 to PC 3 (classifications of icebreakers by icebreaking capabilities are shown in Table D.1). Ships, such as the Varandey (Figure D.1[a]), that can break ice, tow small icebergs, and clear harbors have construction costs of about $100 million, but they cannot adequately support research missions, act as helicopter platforms, or perform the McMurdo break-in. Replacement costs for each of the currently disabled U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, could be more than $700 million each with a construction time over 3 years after the funds are authorized. Less expensive modern research vessels strengthened for the ice such as the Sikuliaq (Figure D.1[b]), which is currently under construction for Arctic research, cost about $150 million and have capabilities to support research in unconsolidated seasonally light sea ice conditions and with limited endurance because of their smaller size. Specifications for NSF’s new icebreaking Polar Research Vessel are currently under consideration by the University–National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS). The United States should explore options of various-sized icebreakers within a holistic fleet plan. The daily costs for research ship operations as evaluated by UNOLS in 2010 and 2011 is approximately $31,000, and the expected daily costs for a polar class (PC1-PC3) heavy icebreaker will be greater than $40,000.
Other alternatives for icebreaker support over the next 20 years include partnerships with other countries and leasing icebreakers flagged by other countries. For the past five seasons, the United States has leased the services of the Swedish ice breaker, Oden, to do the annual break-in to McMurdo Station. The international fleet of nonnuclear ships capable of penetrating ice fields heavier than first-year ice is very limited in number, and many of those ships have more than 30 years of service. Currently, there is a shortage of modern heavy icebreakers in all polar regions. Acquisition and operation of these platforms are very resource intensive. Thus, sharing icebreakers between two or more nations could be considered for the future. The model of sharing special-purpose research vessels has proven successful for scientific ocean drilling