Antarctic Land Rush?

Photo credit: CIA

DefenseNews reports on the growing South American interest in Antarctica and the proliferation of polar ships that support these interests. The increased interest is fueled by anticipation that changes in the Antarctic Treaty system will allow resource exploitation.

If the current treaty is altered or abrogated, a number of nations have already made claims to Antarctic territory, held in abeyance by the current treaty. Some of these claims overlap. Interestingly neither the US or Russia has made any specific claims but have reserved the right to make them in the future. (Click on the map above to enlarge and see where the various stations are located.)

There is already much animosity between Argentina and the UK and between Argentina and Chile. The existing treaty system could breakdown at any time. This looks like another good argument for both a new Icebreaker and for bringing back the Polar Sea.

3 thoughts on “Antarctic Land Rush?

  1. I’m not an idealist and not naive. But it depresses me to see countries jockeying to develop the Antarctic.

    Feel the same way about the inevitable weaponsization of satellites and space.

    On the ice breaker topic. Apparently some Members of Congress were irritated with the USCG last week, because they talk about the arctic, and it’s one of their core missions, but they never seem to request significant funding for icebreakers, so now Congress is wondering if we really need icebreakers. I’ll try to dig up the link on it.

    • James, Thanks. Unfortunately the new Icebreaker is to the Coast Guard what the new SSBNs are to the Navy (only more so), a huge spike in the budgeting requirement that if it gets funding, essentially nothing else does. If the AC&I budget remains at about $1.5, a $1B icebreaker essentially wipes out an entire year, disrupting on going programs.

      The Navy is trying to get separate funding for the SSBN program, outside their normal budget. Looks like the CG is trying to do the same. It would really be better if we could just get the AC&I budget jacked up to where it should be, about $2.5B per year. Sounds like a lot of money, but in the total scheme of things, the Coast Guard is really small potatoes.

      As for reactivating the Polar Sea, if it is $100M to get Polar Sea operational for 7 to 10 years vs $1B to get a new comparable icebreaker for 30 years, the answer appears obvious, we should reactivate the Sea, but unfortunately, these ships have been maintenance hogs, sucking up much more than their share of the operating costs. A new breaker might be much cheaper to operate. The controllable pitch props continue to be problematic, that is why I recommended a different approach that might cost more in the short term, but would save us maintenance costs in the future.

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