Icebreaker POLAR SEA sidelined by engine troubles

Today, the Coast Guard announced the 399-foot Cutter POLAR SEA suffered an unexpected engine casualty and will be unable to deploy on its scheduled fall 2010 Arctic patrol and may be unavailable for Operation Deep Freeze, Dec. 20 to Jan 2, 2011.

ARCTIC OCEAN – The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea, homeported in Seattle, breaking ice in the Northern Arctic ocean in support of various scientific research projects, Oct. 8, 2009. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Pamela J. Manns

POLAR SEA will likely be in a maintenance status and unavailable for operation until at least January 2011.

POLAR STAR, the Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker commissioned in 1976, is currently in the process of being reactivated, but will not be operational for deployment until 2013. The cutter was placed in a caretaker status in 2006.

POLAR SEA was commissioned into service in 1978 with a 30 year service life. In 2006 the Coast Guard completed a rehabilitation project that extended its service life to 2014.

ANTARCTICA – The Polar Sea is in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze 2007, clearing a navigable channel for supply ships to get needed goods and equipment to personnel working at McMurdo Station. USCG photo by PA2 Kevin J. Neff

Currently, the 420-foot CGC HEALY, commissioned in 1999, is the service’s sole operational polar region icebreaker. While the HEALY is capable of supporting a wide range of Coast Guard missions in the polar regions, it is a medium icebreaker capable of breaking ice up to 4.5-feet thick at three knots.

The impact on POLAR SEA‘s scheduled 2011 Arctic winter science deployment, scheduled for Jan. 3 to Feb. 23, 2011, is not yet known and depends on the scope of required engine repair.

MCMURDO SOUND, Antarctica – During Operation Deep Freeze 2002, both the 399-ft. Polar Star (WAGB-10) and its sister ship Polar Sea (WAGB-11) jointly broke an ice path to create an access channel for supply ships in McMurdo Sound. U.S. COAST GUARD PHOTO

Use the following links for more information on the Coast Guard’s role in the Arctic:

*Title 14, U.S. Code, Section 2, primary duties of the U.S. Coast Guard

*Listen to a Blogger’s Roundtable discussion with Adm. Thad W. Allen, on how the increasingly accessible and active Arctic region has significant security, environmental, scientific, and economic challenges with broad implications for the nation.

*Admiral Allen testifies on National Ocean Policy

*The Coast Guard and the Arctic – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

*An interview with ocean activist and author David Helvarg

*Coast Guard history of polar and ice operations

*Arctic domain awareness flights

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