Polar Sea Receives Temporary Reprieve from Admiral Robert Papp, Jr.
The scrapping of the Polar Sea, that was to commence in the next few days, has been halted until at least the end of 2012.
Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have reached an agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard to postpone the scrapping, the agreement was reached during a meeting of the Senators and the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp, Jr.
The Seattle based icebreaker, beginning on Monday, was scheduled to be dry docked and the dismantling was to begin on Monday. The process would have ripped out the vessels hubs and sealed off major portions of the ship. This key step would have marked the initiation of the final destruction of the icebreaking ship.
“As an Arctic Nation, we need to proceed intelligently as opportunities open up in our northern waters,” said Senator Murkowski. “Dismantling critical components of the Polar Sea without a complete plan for its replacement – a year before Polar Star will be back in the water – would not be the best course of action. While this may only be a six month respite for the Polar Sea, I will use this period to work through my role on the Appropriations Committee to make America’s icebreaking capacity a top priority.”
“The Coast Guard has listened to our call to postpone the dry docking of the Polar Sea so we can continue to explore the most cost-effective measures to ensure the United States has adequate icebreaking capabilities,” said Senator Begich. “Rebuilding this valuable cutter would save taxpayer dollars, create jobs, and increase our ability to operate in the Arctic, and I look forward to continuing to discuss next steps in revitalizing the Polar Sea.”
“We are glad the Coast Guard has agreed to postpone the scrapping of this valuable icebreaker,” said Cantwell. “This is good news for Washington shipbuilding jobs and for America’s icebreaking capability. The Polar Sea’s hull is still in sound condition. Postponing its scrapping allows the Administration and Congress more time to consider all options for fulfilling the nation’s critical icebreaking missions.”
The scrapping of the Polar Sea would have left the United States with only one operational icebreaker, the Healy. That ship has only medium icebreaking capabilities, and is primarily a research vessel.
The Polar Sea's sister ship, the Polar Star, has been in dry dock being re-fitted after years of recieving routine maintenance in "caretaker" status. That ship, which was commissioned in 1976, is due to be re-activated in 2013 after a re-fit in Todd Pacific Shipyards.