New Base at Port Clarence?

Bering Strait. Port Clarence bay is the large bight in the southeast.

Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by Seth Ilys.

At the National Press Club Headliners Luncheon on Thursday, Dec. 6, the Commandant discussed the Coast Guard’s Arctic presence. We noted the Commandant’s remarks on the Polar Security Cutter earlier, that he was guardedly optimistic, but the US Naval Institute report on the same presentation, brings us more information about the possibility of a new port facility in Western Alaska.

Long-term, Schultz said it’s possible the Coast Guard would look to create a permanent presence in the Arctic. Most likely, Schultz said, the Coast Guard would look for a sea base, possibly in the far northern Port Clarence area. One option, Schultz said, is for the Coast Guard to install moorings to provide a safe haven. Port Clarence, Alaska, had a population of 24, according to the 2010 Census.

Port Clarence was at one time a LORAN Station, and it appears it may still have a substantial runway, so it might also develop into a seasonal air station.

The Secretary of the Navy has already expressed an interest in having a strategic port in Alaska. From the Navy’s point of view it is near the potentially strategically important Bering Strait.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz meets with Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan in Nome and Port Clarence, Alaska to discuss the construction of deep draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018. This would allow the Coast Guard and Navy to have a strong presence in the U.S. Arctic. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

11 thoughts on “New Base at Port Clarence?

  1. it may be just me but don’t we want to operate in the north? Adak is pretty far south, especially as cutter response goes. not counting the navy, they seem to have an aversion to north of the arctic circle for the last few decades. port Clarence being a viable port/station/home port makes more sense but would require a shiton of cash.

    • Yes, Adak is far South of the Arctic Circle. Even Port Clarence is slightly south of the Circle. Adak is only in the Arctic because the US government defines the Arctic to include the Aleutians even though they are still far South of the Arctic Circle.

      No indication yet how much work they plan to put into Port Clarence beyond using its natural availability as an anchorage.

  2. Port Clarence is currently not feasible for anything other than a place of refuge. There doesn’t seem to be any discernible port infrastructure. I doubt they would be able to provide fuel and other supplies. Nome is probably more feasible in the long-term, but current harbor depth starts at 17 feet in the outer harbor and goes down to 9 feet in the inner. Bethel and Dillingham are both large towns for the region, but are both up rivers which presents challenges. Realistically, if you want a port closer to the arctic than Kodiak, Dutch Harbor is the only option at least for the near to mid-term. It is the only port in the region that is reliably re-supplied and has a large deep-draft port that is currently undergoing plans to deepen. The problem with Dutch is it’s not really that close to the arctic, it has less than reliable air transportation (primarily due to weather, but the small and awkwardly placed runway doesn’t help). On the other hand it is one of the larger towns in all of Alaska with existing infrastructure and a long history of Coast Guard activities.

    • They are talking about adding infrastructure where there is none. Port Clarence looks likely because of a well protected natural harbor and it already has an airfield that could be significantly improved without any earth moving.

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