Given the current state of Arctic issues, and the fact that the U.S. is set to take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council later this month, it is a sad day in the news when I read that Russia has just ice tested an icebreaker that can break ice forward, backward, and yes, sideways.
Not sad for them, of course, or for the new technology now available to the industry. Sad because at this moment, the U.S. is one deep in icebreaking capacity. That’s right – the U.S. has, at any given time, ONE icebreaker operating. Sure we have a whopping two of them, but while one is working at one pole, the other is laid up and being repaired and prepared to take over: The Polar Star is working in the Antarctic while the Healy is hanging out in Seattle preparing to “tag out” to support summer operations in the Arctic.
Don’t take my word for it, this link brings you to the 2013 summary of world icebreaking capacity completed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
In testimony before Congress, its been established that we need about 10 years and about a $1 billion to build a new icebreaker – the catch – the icebreakers we have don’t have 10 years left of service… and thus far, the congressional response from the House of Representatives – the house responsible for appropriations – has decided to hold no more hearings on icebreakers and has been quoted as saying “you are not going to get it“. Instead, Congress suggests that agencies come up with the money from within existing budgets – budgets that are strapped from sequestration and increasing cuts to programs that use icebreaking – you know science (NSF, NOAA) instead of doing their jobs and appropriating the necessary funding to address a serious gap in national security and maritime domain awareness.
Meanwhile, Russia can now break ice sideways.
Full article here: http://gcaptain.com/oblique-icebreaker-baltika-tested-arctic-ice/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Gcaptain+%28gCaptain.com%29
Icebreaking Capacity: http://news.usni.org/2013/07/23/u-s-coast-guards-2013-reivew-of-major-ice-breakers-of-the-world
Congress declines to fund icebreaker: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2014/09/17/congress-declines-to-help-coast-guard-fund-new-polar-icebreaker.html