Demand for ice-breaking capability is only growing, as several recent cases have demonstrated, says Coast Guard chief. This warning was issued by Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant of the USCG, in his annual state of the coastguard address on February 24.
Polar-class USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), a 39-year-old cutter that has been reactivated, remains the United States’ sole heavy ice breaker, with sister ship USCGC Polar Sea laid up in disrepair. The 16,000-tonne medium ice breaker USCGC Healy is also in service.
The Polar Star in mid-February steamed 900 miles and broke through 150 miles of ice to rescue a 207-ft fishing vessel, Antarctic Chieftan, that had become stranded in the southern polar region, Adm Zukunft pointed out.
“What concerns me even more,” said Adm Zukunft, “is that the United States has no rescue capability whatsoever had it been Polar Star who suffered a catastrophic [mechanical] casualty and become beset in ice.”