Seattle shipyard upgrades U.S. icebreaker
Todd Shipyards in Seattle has been awarded a five-year $29 million contract to retrofit the U.S. Coast Guard's Polar Class icebreaker Polar Star.
'This contract is a shot in the arm for our maritime industry at a critical time,' said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who helped secure $30.3 million in the fiscal year 2009 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to re-activate the Polar Star.
Murray's office noted in a press release Friday that the United States lags behind other nations in its fleet of polar icebreakers and must routinely contract with other countries to use their icebreakers. Russia has a fleet of 20 heavy ice breakers and is nearing completion of its first nuclear-powered icebreaker.
The lack of icebreakers puts the United States at a considerable disadvantage to Russia, which has attempted to increase its control over energy exploration and maritime trade in the Arctic, the senator's office warned.
The receding polar ice may allow for routine passage of commercial vessels through the Northwest Passage by as early as 2020, Coast Guard officials and scientists predict. The United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway are expected to play a key role in the future of the Arctic's commercial maritime development and activities. For more details, read the October 2008 American Shipper, pages 73-75.