Through some comments, from Tups and Matthew Coombs CWO4 USCG (retired), on a previous post we have learned that construction on a medium icebreaker begun for Shell has apparently been suspended because Shell is no longer attempting to drill for oil in the Arctic.
This might be an opportunity for the Coast Guard to obtain one or two reasonably capable medium icebreaker in the near term on favorable terms.
Reportedly the ship was laid down in December so the design and much of the material has already been bought, costs Shell is responsible for.
The icebreaker should be pretty capable, it is reportedly Polar Class 3. Polar class 3 means “Year-round operation in second-year ice which may include multiyear ice inclusions.” My understanding is that the ship will have Four 5060 KW generators. If so it will have more horsepower (20,240 KW/27,131 SHP) than the diesel electric engines of the Polar class (18,000 HP), more than the Glacier (16,000 KW/21,000 SHP), and almost as much as the Healy (22,400 KW/30,027 SHP). It would also be more than twice as powerful as the Wind class breakers (12,000 SHP), the National Science Foundation’s leased M/V Nathaniel B. Palmer (9,485 kW/12,720 HP), or USCGC Mackinaw (6,800 KW/9,119 SHP). It would also be more powerful than all but one of Canada’s icebreakers, and powerful enough to lead a break in at McMurdo Sound.
Politically this might gets some traction because, I am sure the Louisiana delegation would love to see their people go back to work to finish the ship, and the Alaska Senators desperately want more icebreakers. This might even be a circumstance where leasing might make sense.
If Shell is truly abandoning attempts to exploit the Arctic, it is also likely that their other ice class vessels, including the icebreaker Aiviq, are also excess to their needs. Adding Aiviq and the ship under construction to the Healey, would meet the Coast Guard’s stated requirement for three medium icebreakers and provide the backup we need if one of the two existing breakers had a breakdown in the ice.