Is Polar Sea Salvageable? reports testimony before Congress suggest that it might be possible to economically repair the Polar Sea (WAGB-11) in addition to the already planned repair of the Polar Star (WAGB-10).

Have to consider the source but,

“We do believe there is a need to build new heavy icebreakers, and we urge Congress and the Administration to work together to quickly authorize and fund such a project,” Whitcomb testified. But, he added, “for just over 1 percent of the  cost of a new vessel, and at a two-year versus ten-year minimum horizon, the United States of America would have a second fully functioning heavy icebreaker able to complete vital missions under our own flag for at least a decade or  more. “The hulls and frames of the Polar Star and the Polar Sea are perfectly sound and capable,” Whitcomb added. He estimated it would take $11 million to replace Polar Sea’s engine and bring the icebreaker to an operational level…Whitcomb is chief operating officer of Vigor Industrial, whose subsidiary Vigor Shipyards is restoring the Polar Star…”

Actually there was testimony from a second source.

The vessel was extensively overhauled in recent years, so other additional upgrades would be minimal, retired Coast Guard icebreaker commanding officer Rear Adm. Jeffrey Garrett told the committee.

I presume the Coast Guard has already looked at the possibility? Maybe there is just a perception that the Polar Class are money pits that will take funds from other programs?


US Coast Guard photo

8 thoughts on “Is Polar Sea Salvageable?

  1. The testimony made it all very clear if you keep it in context. The ships are old money pits but they are the only option. For much less than $100M we can have two medium breakers back online within two years. They won’t last forever but they will last the +10 years required before a new ship can be built. Is $100M worth a decade of ice breaking capability? Is that too high a price?

    At $900M a piece and considering the Northern Latitude study called for 10 hulls this is a major program. Its more than twice the cost of the NSC program and requires a much deeper infrastructure program to develop the northern footprint.

  2. Pingback: Daily Summary for December 6 2011 : Coast Guard Digest

    • The Canadians are no better than the Americans at estimating prices (their submarine program has been a real mess). They were projected to cost $3.1 (Canadian)

      The AOPS is basically a repeat of the Norwegian Svalbard:

      Because they are expected to be in the Arctic only in the summer and expected to serve as as Offshore Patrol Vessels in the winter there has been a lot of criticism of the choice as being inefficient and slow in ice free waters.

      I tend to think what should happen, is that we will build a class of lighter ice capable ships, what the CG is referring to now as medium icebreakers, to perform WHEC like duties in the Arctic and they will be followed by a new class of heavy icebreakers. (Rather than heavy first and then medium.) All of this should be done by 2022, but it appears that it may take much longer.

  3. I’ll be honest and say I love when someone throws out “this is what we should be doing.” Back up and answer what in your opinion you believe the AOPS would do? What mission does this capability support? Do you support or foresee the continued requirement for heavy icebreaking or not? What study have you cnducted or can you reference that supports your assertion?

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