Contract awarded for Coast Guard’s new polar icebreaker

USCGC Polar Star icebreaker sits hove-to outside McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The Polar Star can bust through ice up to 21 feet thick and steam continuously through 6 feet of ice at 3 knots. USCG photo by PA2 Mariana O'Leary

Defense Department officials have announced the awarding of a multi-million-dollar contract to a Mississippi firm to build the nation’s first new heavy Polar Security Cutter in over 40 years.

Alaska’s congressional delegation said that they learned of the contract on April 23 from Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

In February, Congress passed a funding bill which included a total of $675 million for the Polar Security Cutter program, with $655 million to fully fund the first PSC and $20 million for long lead time materials for a second PSC.

The Coast Guard is the sole provider and operator of U.S. polar icebreakers. The only two currently operational icebreakers are the 20-year-old medium icebreaker Healy and the 43-year-old heavy icebreaker Polar Start, which operates only in the Antarctic.

Coast Guard officials had announced previously that they were seeking a total of six new icebreakers, three heavy and three medium, to carry out its mission.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, both R-Alaska, applauded the news.


“I have worked tirelessly to fully fund a polar icebreaker fleet and will continue to support the Coast Guard to make a U.S. polar capable fleet a reality,” Murkowski said. “The U.S. cannot stand on the sidelines as other Arctic and non-Arctic nations continue to expand their icebreaker fleets and with it, their Arctic presence.”