Strengthening the U.S. Coast Guardâ€™s ability to respond to a changing Arctic, U.S. Senator Mark Begich introduced legislation last Thursday to strengthen icebreaking capabilities, increase vessel tracking capacity and enhance oil spill response and recovery.
Begich is the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee, on Oceans Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard. Begich has repeatedly pressed the Administration to build a new class of polar icebreakers and recently sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to fulfilling the recommendations of the Coast Guard’s High Latitude Study on icebreaker needs.
Begich’s package, the Coast Guard Arctic Preparedness Act, would clarify the Coast Guard’s operations mission to include ice breaking capabilities for the federal government and extend the life of the Coast Guard’s currently idled heavy icebreaker Polar Sea for seven to ten years.
“With the Arctic opening up new opportunities for development and shipping, the Coast Guard needs to be better prepared to support increased activity in the region,” said Begich. “My bill provides the Coast Guard with greater resources, including stronger ice breaking capabilities, vessel tracking and improved oil spill response and recovery abilities. The U.S. is an Arctic nation and it’s time that we commit serious resources to the region and start acting like one.”
The bill would strengthen vessel tracking capabilities and permit the transmission of navigation and safety data, like ice and weather information, to non-federal vessels though the existing Automatic Identification System. Other important provisions in the bill include:
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington is an original cosponsor of the legislation.