Alaska appeals for icebreakers

Alaska appeals for icebreakers

President Obama isn’t the only elected official who opposes the idea of shrinking the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell was set to tell House lawmakers on Thursday that his state needs the Coast Guard to patrol the less-frozen North with ships and aircraft that can handle the extreme conditions up there. In an interview before the hearing of the House Transportation Committee’s Coast Guard Subcommittee, Treadwell said the U.S. is getting left behind.

Russia has announced it will build nine new icebreakers, Treadwell said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Treadwell was in the room in September, he said, when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he wanted the Arctic sea route to be as important as the Suez Canal.

At least 18 vessels made trans-Arctic voyages last year, Treadwell said, and the United States is not prepared if there’s a wreck.

“We feel we’re pretty naked right now with the increased shipping in the Bering Strait,” he said. “Because a lot of them are carrying fuel, crude oil, oil products, and none of them have contingency plans that tie in with the state of Alaska or the federal government.”

But as our Air Force friends might say, it’s going to take a drug deal to make any progress on getting the Coast Guard new ships anytime soon.

A Congressional Research Service report by shipbuilding expert Ron O’Rourke last month quoted a Coast Guard study that said it would take between eight and 10 years to design, contract and build a new icebreaker. Plus replacing the service’s two main ships, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, could cost a lot. Not a lot by the standards of the Pentagon, which today sneezes billions of dollars, but a lot for the Coast Guard, which tends to struggle with budgets and acquisitions as compared with the four larger DoD services.

Here’s how it all breaks down: If the Coast Guard sticks by a 2010 study about the potential future of Arctic operations, it has a notional requirement for six icebreakers, three heavy and three “medium.” According to the 2010 Naval Operations Concept, the Coast Guard would need 10 ships, six heavy and three medium breakers, to maintain the “continuous presence” the document calls for.

OK. Per CRS, one new icebreaker could cost $856 million; two could cost $1.7 billion; three would cost $2.4 billion; four would cost $3.2 billion; five would cost around $4 billion; and six would cost about $4.7 billion. The iron laws of shipbuilding apply — unit costs go down as total quantities go up. But first somebody would have to stand up and make a case to Congress to spend that kind of money in Austerity America.

There’s another problem: The best warships in the world are built in the United States. But American yards do not have a lot of experience building the kind of heavy-duty icebreakers the Coast Guard needs. The yard that built the polar rollers, up in Seattle, is long gone. So in a perfect world, the best option for the Coast Guard might be to send its requirements to a Finnish builder and then fly its crew over to take delivery. But first somebody would have to stand up and tell Congress to send hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work to a foreign shipyard.

Behind all these decisions is the same basic question, asked many times by Treadwell and others: Whether the U.S. will decide what it wants to do about the Arctic before there’s a sinking, an oil spill or some other major event up there — or whether it’ll be forced to afterwards.

Join the Conversation

Mr. President, we must not allow an icebreaker gap!

Mr. president agrees, the gentlemen/women of the Congress are the ones in need of convinving.


I don’t suppose anyone would consider buying plans and technical support from Finland and doing the building in a US yard? Nah, that would make too much sense.

Wonderful idea, there are huge amounts of skilled workers not in the Hampton Roads area. Do a RFP out to NASSCO and Vigor (previously Todd) and see how they do. These are companies with tons of experience is non-warship work for the Feds with long histories of good work that could use the experience to get into something economically benifiting the areas.

No we need to stop pandering to poorly performing America firms. Take the money and buy a decent ship from the Finns or south Koreans, not some half baked disaster cobbled together by companies that already went out of business.

Time to end the tax on the competitive part of America.

You can also make a case that the Pentagon needs to protect the Artic sea lanes and so needs polar ice breakers in its northern fleet. In other words, if militarize the mission, the Coast Guard’s Artic Patrol ship problems will be fixed when it becomes part of the Navy. Problem solved.

It’s sad that the Coast Guard has to constantly live off of the DoD’s scraps. The four DoD branches spend trillions on weapons that get used every once in a while then get put away, while the Coast Guard has been going 24/7 actually protecting and serving America’s mainland, waters, and people since Day 1 and it seems can never get enough resources. If you really think about it, we can always stop deploying troops overseas. We can’t ever stop patrolling our own borders and coastline.

The Coast Guard wants $4.7 Billion to buy 6 ships which will keep an emerging and significant commerce lane open. Meanwhile the Navy is trying to spend that much on 2 warships or the Air Force on a handful of planes which may not fire a shot in anger for a decade. The Coast Guard’s DeepWater shipbuilding program had serious issues, but some of that could probably be blamed on the USCG never getting to buy anything to begin with! Of the 40 largest navies in the world, the US Coast Guard is ranked the 38th in terms of age. IMHO, the disparity between the USCG and the other services would be like having the neighborhood’s best living room entertainment system, but not being able to afford clean water for 75% of the year. You’re the talk of the town during the Super Bowl, but keeping your family safe is in question.

Do you think that might be proprietary data? They don’t just hand that over to another competitor. Data is the life blood of any company that builds a product. If the Finn’s are the pros on breakers, and there is a concern our folks can’t do the job, then contract with them.

Thank you for the “Dr. Strangelove” reference. Should our new extended title now be “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Climate Change” ?


I am Retired from the US Coast Guard, I was on two icebrakers out of Seattle Wa. The Northwind which had the Twin 5″, the other Icebreaker was the Staten Island which was taken over from the Navy.

I think the best duty was in the Coast Guard,

I would to know why we havent kept up . The have havei Polar Class ones and the Healty with the Russans blding onrs we have do somethinf to protrcted the pople of Alaska and the borders/ I have to agree with the LT. Govomor of Alaska.

just join into the Canadian AOPS program (they joined our JSF after all) and the ship yard in seattle still exsists under a new name they just havent built a icebreaker in 2 decades. problem solved.

We need icebreakers, so get them from the Finns or try to find someone smart enough to build them and start creating jobs in the US. Moving jobs out of the US is coming back to bite the citizens of this country in many fields and many ways. The people running this country and those in charge of our companies are definitely some of the dumbest people in the world.
All a person has to do is look at our infra-structure and our economy as a whole, and this makes you wonder where did all the IDIOTS come from. Our schools do not teach our children anything of use anymore. I went to a one room schoolhouse for six years, then went on to graduate from HS, spend twenty years in the Navy and I probably know more than the average college graduate today. This country is going in the wrong direction, and the man in the Whitehouse is helping it along this path.

Neither of those companies are poorly performing; in fact both are know for excellence in there products; more so than the BIW or HII shops which have seen the LPD and recent DDG products with major issues.

The only true show-case project has been Makin Island, and the Bush/Reagon CVNs.

Here Here!!!

Roger that! All military budget cuts should fund the USCG first before going to the treasury to be used in some congressman’s backyard! We are sick and tired of the total disregard to our funding problems, that existed long before this political austerity crap. Hitler had an austerity program also, it was called Warsaw, Poland. As a retired member I can rant all I want, problem is all active have to take what is left and shut up. Look, the USCG budget has improved under Obama, along with housing, etc.. This is still not enough!

We need a deployable sub force for the semi and submersible cartel fleet threat. Arctic OPS only begin with the icebreaker funding, base support is also needed along with aviation asset increases in both personnel and equipment. NSC’s are great but as FEMA policy states, we need to build it better than before because it was lacking to begin with, in other words not only do we need to replace HEC’s as –planned but we need more than mere replacement numbers, we need at least 150% over the original HEC fleet.

I think Icebreakers and the Coast Guard are both very “cool” no pun intended. During my 20, I knew both Navy and CG sailors that were on icebreakers at one point in their time in service, because I attended gyro compass school with CG members as well as us Navymen.

Right, because giant sections of formerly land-bound or glacier-bound ice will just instantly melt, eh? Is it really that difficult to research a simple issue, or use a shift key properly?

You’re so smart! Your expert analysis concludes that all of our economic and industrial woes are due to the overwhelming stupidity of the populace, and this is in turn caused solely by our educational system. I’m assuming your little red schoolhouse lacked a course in rhetoric or logic, because there are 8th graders who could marshal better arguments than your pathetic efforts…and this is evidence of your brilliance? Maybe in the Navy this passes for thinking?

I’m with you right up until the Bath criticism. DDG-1000’s cost increases are programmatic stemming from spreading the R&D costs over 3 hulls instead of 30. Ever since Bath has started welding steel, Zumwalt has been on-time and on-budget.

Problem almost solved, there’s still the cabal of Southern Lawmakers who love to torpedo shipbuilding projects which don’t include southern shipyards. Need to figure a way to buy them off, I suggest adding 1 more Amphib for HII for every Heavy Icebreakers Vigor gets.

I didn’t mean the entire the populace was stupid, I should have said , just those who voted for Obama.

I suspect the reason why the Coast Guard gets to suck hind teat on money issues is because it is supposed to protect American borders on the sea, and we all know how much this federal government wants us to give up our sovereignty and join the north American union. Like our land borders, if we wanted to protect them, we would marshal the resources necessary to do so.

Regarding who gets to build the new ice breakers (if they get funded) it would make the most long term sense to have American shipyards do the building. BIW was mentioned, and they could very well handle the job.

Go back to arming Ice Breakers and let the Navy pay 80% of the cost. Have the Finnish experts slightly modify and build it for us here! Many countries build our Blackhawks under Licence.… The Coast Guard and the National Park Service are probably the only two federal agencies who need their budgets increased.

fine with me we need more amphibs and auxillaires anyway. its too bad my so called smart power senators from washington state didnt get funding for new ice breakers in the stimulus bill hell both the liberal and conservative defense thinks tanks were calling for more.

I’m with you Steve W. We need them, and they should be armed. H.E.E.Sr.,USN,ret

Murray tried to get Icebreaker funds several times, and is still trying.

Avondale New Orleans is best positioned to build the next Ice Breakers. They built the last one and did a damn fine job.

I’m a Frmr. U.S.C.G. AD3 that would have done Breaker duty on my 3 tour had I stayed in. As far as I’m concerned the C.G. has the worst leadership crisis it has ever faced. The current Commandant has called for a force reduction at a time the C.G. SHOULD be at a Min. 500,000 level to perform the duties required of it. In addition it needs to float at least 10 breakers to cover both the North and South polar seas. Yes, the Yard still exists to build them. America STILL leads the world in the ability to ” GET THE JOB DONE ” when the right leadership is in charge. One thing every American should know about the Coast Guard. It,s the only Service that actually pays for its own budget. How you ask ? What value a Human Life ? Unpaid insurance payouts due to lives saved and ships and other equipment saved and kept safe. Believe me, it,s a long list.

It’s not just Alaska that needs breakers. The Great Lakes are in dire need of additional ice breakers since last of the 180s, BRAMBLE, ACACIA and SUNDEW have been decommissioned. The CG keeps trying to put a band aid on the problem by sending 140′ icebreaking tugs TAD from other districts to try and cover the needs to keep shipping moving on the Great Lakes. Fortunately our neighbors to the north have been gracious and sent their breakers to help cover the needs especially on the St. Clair River. This former 180 buoy tender — ice breaker sailor sends.

Why don’t we just repair the Sea and Star. The hulls should be good for 35 more years. I spent 3 1/2 years helping build them which was some of the most rewarding work I’ve done. The Mackinaw went for about 60 years.
Just spend the money. Way less than the 4 Trillion they have wasted in the last 30 months. Or make it a Solar Energy Powered Ship, the money would be there in a few days.

it is hillariuos how reporters talk about being outdated on icebreaker designs. all new icebreakers around the world come from the wind class breakers, the only thing changed is the hotel structure between bow and stern. coast guard did lot of design gathering and tank testing back in 40’s. with the type and thickness of steel used, any us shipyard should be able to build them here. congress never wanted to give the coast guard money for anything until major acident, then they want to stick the coast guard with local mfgr’d junk and have us make it work. the bad thing is these new cutters they are building are fancy navy ships, when they start doing major operations at sea that high freeboard is going to bight. so hopefully someone takes command and fights for the proper equipment, not some cathederal to themselves.

It is foolish to think that the USA would have to go out of country to build an Icebreaker!
Bear in mind that one of the newest ships in the USCG is the Mackinaw II. And yes — it is of a Finnish Design built in the USA. For all of the Design Flaws however, I don’t know why you would want to bother. Their Icebreakers are basically Harbor and River Icebreakers. They are not heavy Weather Icebreakers such as the last of the real Icebreakers that the CG had in service such as the Mackinaw I. The Polar Star & the Polar Sea are nothing more than Boxes with a Cut-Down Forefoot.

This is basically what happened on the last two icebreakers we built — the HEALY and the new MACKINAW. They were built by Avondale and Marinette respectively, but the Finns had a large part in their design.

POLAR SEA and POLAR STAR were built by Lockheed Shipbuilding, and there is no trace of either the corporate entity that built them or the yard itself. Todd Seattle, now Vigor Industrial, has NEVER built an icebreaker, although they have been supporting both POLARs for 3 decades and now the HEALY for 10 years.

Seriously disagree with this statement. The WIND class was the best in world in it’s time, but we stole that hullform from the Russians just before the 2nd world war, and it was essentially a Baltic icebreaker, good for relatively thin level ice. By the 1960’s it was recognized that it wasn’t optimal for the poles, and the POLAR class breakers were much more efficient than the WIND class. By the mid 1980’s, both the theory of icebreaking and the practice of simulated ice model basins had advanced so much that hullforms changed again for the better.

Modern icebreakers use a different physical mechanism to break ice (more cutting and bending, less crushing), and do so far more efficiently than the WIND class ever did.

As we speak the Mackinaw II (of Finnish Design and Advanced Theory using High Tech systems) is in the Yards!

Great time for one of the CG’s Major assets on the Lakes to be there. You think it was scheduled for this time of year?

Remember that the bulk of the Wind Class was loaned to the USSR under Lend Lease. The Mackinaw

was used as a classroom to “Teach The Russians.”

Hey Schulz…
I never heard the original one was used to teach the russians…could you tell me where to find that info?

Speaking of Mackinaw…her hull is still intact. The only problems were the engines and motors. If she could have been refit, like the Polars ahve been, she would still be on duty. Lets bring her back and do what needs to be done and we have a good breaker for the next 40 years on the Great Lakes.

As for the ocean going breakers…anyone with any common sense could tell this crisis was coming…for decades we sat on our hands and did nothing…now the crunch is here and we have our thumbs up our butts. Politics is the culpret and inept CG leadership. Can’t expect any better coming out of the CG Academy lately…or for the past 30 years.


All the old data on the wind class ships is buried in the CG archives in Suitland,Md. It would probably take them a month to find all the paperwork. Then comes the minor problem of updating the power plant data and space for the engine room and all the other electronics we use today. The problem is this would make sense there for I doubt it would be done unless you could make some Commander who is in good standing put the thought forward, then it might get looked at.

Have you seen the ###### fire main on the Healy *shudder*

Hold on there buoy guy. I’m a 140 sailor. Was on 103 when it was just 6 months old. They run rings around the 180’s. We went to greenbay and back in 12 hours. Took the Acacia 3 days the year before with the same amount of ice. The 140’s were why the Westwind was xfer’d to Mobile in 81. We have enough medium duty breakers (5) and 1 heavy in the great lakes. It was no different then where the 110’s were still around and only the Mac-wagb 83 was the heavy breaker. The westwind didn’t do much breaking in the lakes. So, the current 225’s can do much better then the 180’s but they are not breakers in design. And, I’ve not heard or seen an out-of-district breaker in the lakes. Even when I was at a small boat station (st. clair shores, mobile bay and the 4 years I was at the D9 commcen). So, unless they were just visiting, they dare not venture into the lakes.

Oh, and before I forget, ONLY the Bramble had a re-enforced hull out of all the 180’s on the lakes. It’s and the Spar made the northwest passage trip before I was ever born. the rest of the 180’s did what they could do but that wasn’t much with things got bad. I remember having to go “rescue” the Acacia once when it became beset in ice off Ludington. To show their appreciation, they RAMMED us in rear. Back in the startup, the 140’s had a KNOWN problem where the electric motor would trip off line and caused loss of propulsion. Needless to say, that’s not good when you have a 180 20 feet off your stern moving at 4 knts. Just can’t stop that fast. Hey, that’s what the rub rails are for right?

The 140’s can handle ice breaking duties in the lakes. They have since 1979. Only at the thick of it (pun intended) does having the MAC-30 onscene does it help things along. People seem to forget that thanks to the abilities of the 140’s (WTGB’s) the westwind was moved from Milwaukee to Mobile AL in 81 and the need to have the 180’s do breaker duty was all but put to bed.

Seriously…Are you saying to “Militarize” the mission so the Navy can do it, because the Coast Guard isn’t military? I hope I miss understood your comment. If not…the next time me and my team go out on a mission to protect Army assets, I can say whoa there…we aren’t the military…call the Navy.

Sorry Chief…that was meant for ‘TAX PAYERS’ comment. Semper Paratus.…

Sorry Chief.…That reply was meant for Tax Payer.

Semper Paratus…

Seriously…Are you saying to “Militarize” the mission so the Navy can do it, because the Coast Guard isn’t military? I hope I miss understood your comment. If not…the next time me and my team go out on a mission to protect Army assets, I can say whoa there… we aren’t the military…call the Navy.

I think you need a better calculator. 500,000 level manning is one and a half times the size of the current Navy.
Lol at sending Icebreakers to the South Polar Sea. That is one HELL of a long trip, have you ever been there?

Coastie, I think Taxpayer was saying if the USCG was absorbed by the Navy, then you guys might have a better shot at getting the resources you need. Then again, the Navy could just ignore you entirely and spend their money on expensive things that go boom.

The 140 tugs and the Mackinaw II are worthless in a seaway. Neither design could weather a November Gale the likes of which took the Bradley, Morrell and the Fitz. I was aboard the Bramble during the search for the Morrell. Have also been aboard both the Mac II and a Katmai Bay during Ice Breaking Ops on the St. Mary’s River. These are River and Bay area Icebreakers.

The Mackinaw I was basically the 5th of the Wind Class Icebreakers. Her power plant was identical.
She was made a bit longer and given a far greater beam to allow for a shallow draft on the lakes.
Rumor had it however that the Lake Carriers Assoc. had it built to their specs and sold it to the USCG for a Dollar. She was “Just ” slightly wider than the locks preventing her from leaving the lakes; which brought up the question “WHY?“
Her hull today is in perfect condition and yes her engines are run out with no replacement parts.She is a now a Tourist Attraction.
It would have been far more practical to refit her with new engines for she is a true Icebreaker and
Sea Boat rather than her replacement which is High Tech Nightmare and constantly in the yards. I have been aboard her during Ice Ops on the St. Marys River. She has a tall profile and is limited to only 18 knots of wind when docking at her home mooring. Funny that the Mack I never had such a problem. She is basically a River and Bay area Icebreaker. She could never face a Major November Gale on the Lakes of the sort which took the Bradley, Morrell (I was aboard the Bramble Then) or the Fitz.
My reference to her serving as a classroom for the Soviets during WWII comes from a book that was published after she was decommissioned.

as a coast guard veteran i know that congress will not get of their lazy asses until we have an oil spill or other disaster in the frozen north; then they will run around looking for someone to blame. bouyjumper is right we need real ice breaker bouy snachers not worthless harbor tugs when the ice on the st. marys river goes all the way to the bottom because of the wind rows you need real cutters that can do the job. the coast guard gets all the crap the navy doesn’t want or is worthless. just watch the finger pointing when an alaska disaster strikes

Maybe…I am just so used to people not realizing all that we do…especially military missions. But, we could never do half of our jobs (law enforcement) under DOD any way. It takes a national disaster like Katrina for us to get money anymore it seems.…it’s a real shame. Thanks for the feed back.

Served on the Bramble as an HM in 66 and 67(Great Lakes) Very labor intensive duty no matter if on the Lakes or in the far reaches of Alaska. Why does the Guard always have to have their hand out for suitable equipment? The list of what the Guard does is endless and Congress always wants to pile it on without suitable manpower or updated equipment. Get a life.


Good point — get Loyd’s of London, or some other sea faring insurance company to help pay the way! HA!

After the deep water mess up congress is not in any hurry to drop double or tripple amount it would cost to build this needed fleet in the CG’ lap. Yes the yard is still in Seattle. Yes we can buy the plans from the Fins. And yes congress can fund the fleet! And yes theDOD can fund them, jut like Senator Stevens did with the Healy.

Retired MCPO


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