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The Coast Guard Is Finally Going To Replace and Increase The Number of Its Heavy Icebreakers


It is about time! One of the United States Coast Guard’s major elements is its heavy icebreaking abilities. Forty years ago, the current heavy icebreakers, USCGCs Polar Star and Polar Sea, were built, launched, and commissioned. The Polar Sea has been out of commission for years now, its repair needs being too costly for the USCG budget. Its main purpose has been to be cannibalized to keep her sister ship, the Polar Star, going. The Polar Star, though still effective and still working, is reaching the limits of old age at this time too.

The Coast Guard’s budget has been increased recently, and it has been finally able to commission the building of a new fleet of heavy icebreakers. The bid was won by the Austal Shipbuilding Co. The design phase is complete, and the construction process is beginning soon on the first of the new USCG Polar Security Cutters.

Photo: YouTube/Naval News

This video is about these new Polar Security-class vessels. You will see what they are going to look like and hear what they are going to be capable of when they are finally at sea in the next few years.

These Polar Security Cutters will be multi-purpose vessels but will principally be used in missions to both the Arctic and the Antarctic. As such, they must be designed to operate in waters at the equator, where the water temperatures are around 90 degrees, as well as in the Arctic and Antarctic seas, where water temps can be as low as 28 degrees. Such seemingly simple things must be taken into consideration when designing hull structures that can handle such differences and that are still capable of breaking thick ice as the Polar Star has been doing every year for 40 years in the Antarctic at the U.S. scientific base at McMurdo Sound.

Photo: YouTube/Naval News

The homeport for the USCG Heavy Icebreakers is presently at Seattle, Washington. I believe this will remain the same for the new vessels. The first of the PSCs will be completed in the next few years, and the construction of the others will begin as well. As of now, the plan seems to be for up to three of these new Polar Security Cutters to be built.

These ships will have 45,000 horsepower and will weigh up to 22,000 tons. They will be capable of long-range missions and heavy-duty icebreaking. They will have helicopter and science capabilities, hence their classification as multi-purpose vessels.

Photo: YouTube/Naval News

The old gal, the Polar Star, has done meritorious service for the USCG and for the nation for 40 years and will continue to do so until the new Polar Security-class Icebreakers replace her. She has earned her credits and her retirement over the past 40 years.

Photo: YouTube/Naval News

It is always a treat to see the Polar Star sailing up and out of Puget Sound on her missions and on her returns with her red hull and white superstructure and the distinctive bow, racing stripe, or slash emblem raked at a 64-degree angle to remember the year it was designed, 1964. We will miss her, but we look forward to seeing the new USCG Polar Security Cutters cutting through the waters of Puget Sound as they come and go from their homeport in Seattle.

The promise of these new Polar Security Cutters is consistent with the motto of the United States Coast Guard: “Semper Paratus!” or “Always Prepared!” We wish the old Polar Star and the new PSCs “Fair Winds and Following Seas.”



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