“The United States Needs a Deep-water Arctic Port” –USNI

Nome, Alaska location. Adapted from Wikipedia’s AK borough maps by en:User:Seth Ilys.

The US Naval Institute Proceedings for Sept has a short article by By Captain Lawson Brigham, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) advocating development of a deep-water port in Nome, Alaska.

Interest in a deep draft port in northern Alaska has been expressed in Congress, by the Secretary of the Navy, and the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Earlier we talked about the possibility of locating this facility at Port Clarence.

Port Clarence actually seems the larger natural harbor and has some infrastructure, including a runway, left over from when there was a Coast Guard LORAN station there. Nome (terminus for the Iditarod dog sled race) has a much larger population (about 3800 vs 24) and would require less supporting infrastructure development.

Aerial view from the West of Nome, Alaska, in July 2006, by ra64

In any case it seems likely that the ability to control the Bering Strait will become strategically important some time in the future. Both are within 160 miles of the Russian side of the Strait, with Port Clarence being about 50 miles closer.

Alaska and the Bering Strait

Until that time, it seems likely that the Coast Guard may establish a seasonal air station.

Full disclosure, Captain Brigham and I attended the same Naval War College class. 

15 thoughts on ““The United States Needs a Deep-water Arctic Port” –USNI

  1. And what would be the minimum footprint in operating a Deep-Water Base in Nome, Alaska. Because the population of Nome, is just North of 3,800 and I doubt that the inhabitants of Nome would be interested doubling or even tripling it’s size…

    • Initially it is probably just going to be a stopping over place, not a homeport. If the Coast Guard has a seasonal station there it will be very welcomed by the community and will probably not exceed 100 people at any time.

      If we go to war, all bets are off.

      • I was comparing Nome, Alaska (pop.~3,866 as of January 2019) to that of Port Stanley, in the Falklands (pop.~2108 in 2017). The Multi-Services Garrison in the Falklands, stationed just outside Port Stanley proper is ~1,100 in 2018…

      • The Falklands has a permanently assigned air defense detachment including four fighters and AAW missiles. I don’t expect we will see any thing like that unless things get much more tense with the Russians.

      • The Commanding Officer is a Brevet Rear Admiral, and at least one Royal Naval Destroyer/Frigate is assigned patrol of the Falklands and St. George Island patrol. There are also Royal Marines, Royal Army (i.e. Bomb Disposal) and Royal Air Force personnel in the mix…

  2. My father worked on Project Chariot but fortunately we didn’t use a-bombs to make a deep water port at Cape Thompson.

    There’s a pretty big gap between what you can move with a helicopter, even with external loads, and what can be taken on alongside a pier that would only be accessible for a fraction of the year. I wonder if it would make more sense to consider strategic placement of LCAC’s (or a modern equivalent) at one or more locations to provide lightering from relitively unimproved ports that can land larger aircraft.

  3. i don’t think UK forces in the Falklands is a good analogy for an Alaska deep northern port. Falklands War continues to hold sway when it comes to the depth of forces deployed. British Forces South Atlantic Islands is quite large with a destroyer on rotation to add to a patrol ship and icebreaker permanently deployed. In addition the British Army maintains 1200 personal mostly on rotation and the Air Force has a rotational deployment of 4 Typhoon fighters, a refueling tanker, large transport, and 2 heavy helicopters. For perspective I believe Ketchikan has 250 personal assigned and 3 smaller cutters (two 154s and a WLB). Another better analogy could be the newly constructed Canadian Navisivik Facility on Baffin Island. Canadians are spending $130 million for a deep water port in the eastern Arctic, with only refueling facilities for the navigable season. A partner US facility in the western Arctic would seem prudent, but the question is this a high latitude seasonal refueling facility or a slightly more southern port with a more permanent presence.

  4. Pingback: “Coast Guard Focused On Being Sea-Based In Arctic As Merits Of Deep-Water Port Debated” –USNI | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  5. this from Brymarconsulting.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on maritime infrastructure in the US Arctic. It notes that climate change has led to record low levels of ice in the U.S. Arctic—prolonging the shipping season and opening up shipping routes. This may expand economic opportunities, but harsh weather and ice conditions—plus the lack of maritime infrastructure—pose safety risks. For example, not having a designated harbor of refuge means ships don’t have a place to moor in an emergency. Agencies have taken steps to address infrastructure gaps, but federal efforts lack consistent leadership and a current strategy. The report recommends designating an interagency group and developing a strategy to lead efforts in addressing the region’s maritime infrastructure. (4/29/20) [https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/706502.pdf].

  6. What about “Berthing Barges”! VT Halter has been constructing Berthing Barges for the US Navy for the last couple of years, in lieu of permanent facilities. And Crowley Marine Services was commissioned to do a feasibility study on “Emergency Medical/Berthing Barges” for the Coronavirus Pandemic. Which can support up to 500-patients, and a maximum overload capacity of ~5,500-patients if and when needed…

  7. Pingback: “SECNAV Nominee Commits to Advancing Navy’s Arctic Presence” –Seapower | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  8. Pingback: “White House Orders New Icebreaker Strategy For Coast Guard” — | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  9. Pingback: “NORTHCOM Nominee Supports Building New U.S. Arctic Base for Icebreakers” –USNI | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  10. Pingback: “Military activity is picking up in the quiet waters between the US and Russia” and a Deep Water Port at Nome | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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