“Coast Guard Cutter Healy suffers fire, propulsion failure en route to Arctic” –News Release

Below is a news release reproduced in its entirety.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Aug. 24, 2020
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3375
After Hours: (510) 816-1700
D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil
Pacific Area online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Healy suffers fire, propulsion failure en route to Arctic

ARCTIC OCEAN – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) is in the ice Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, about 715 miles north of Barrow, Alaska, in the Arctic. The Healy is in the Arctic with a team of about 30 scientists and engineers aboard deploying sensors and autonomous submarines to study stratified ocean dynamics and how environmental factors affect the water below the ice surface for the Office of Naval Research. The Healy, which is homeported in Seattle, is one of two ice breakers in U.S. service and is the only military ship dedicated to conducting research in the Arctic. (NyxoLyno Cangemi/U.S. Coast Guard)
ARCTIC OCEAN – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) is in the ice Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, about 715 miles north of Barrow, Alaska, in the Arctic. The Healy is in the Arctic with a team of about 30 scientists and engineers aboard deploying sensors and autonomous submarines to study stratified ocean dynamics and how environmental factors affect the water below the ice surface for the Office of Naval Research. The Healy, which is homeported in Seattle, is one of two ice breakers in U.S. service and is the only military ship dedicated to conducting research in the Arctic. (NyxoLyno Cangemi/U.S. Coast Guard)


ALAMEDA, Calif. — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) suffered a fire in one of the ship’s main propulsion motors Aug. 18 while underway for operations in the Arctic.

No injuries were reported.

The Healy was 60 nautical miles off of Seward, Alaska, en route to the Arctic when an electrical fire was reported at 9:30 p.m.  A fire team disconnected the affected motor, and the fire was confirmed extinguished by 9:56 p.m.  The cause of the fire is currently unknown.

The propulsion motors are critical equipment that use the power generated by the ship’s main diesel engines to spin the shaft and propeller. This design protects the engines from variations in shaft speeds inherent to ice operations. 

Due to the fire, Healy’s starboard propulsion motor and shaft are no longer operational, and the ship is transiting back to its homeport in Seattle for further inspection and repairs.

Prior to the fire, the Healy completed a 26-day patrol in support of Operation Arctic Shield, demonstrating U.S. presence and influence in the Bering Sea, along the U.S.-Russian Maritime Boundary Line, and in the Arctic.

On Aug. 15, the Healy was in Seward and embarked 11 scientists before departing on Aug. 18 to ensure national security and conduct science operations in the Arctic.  As a result of the fire, all Arctic operations have been cancelled.

“I commend the crew of the Healy for their quick actions to safely combat the fire,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Pacific Area commander.  “This casualty, however, means that the United States is limited in icebreaking capability until the Healy can be repaired, and it highlights the nation’s critical need for Polar Security Cutters.”

In April 2019, the Navy and Coast Guard awarded a contract to VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Mississippi, for the detail design and construction of the Polar Security Cutter. The initial award includes non-recurring engineering, detail design and construction of the first Polar Security Cutter and has options for the construction of two additional hulls. Construction of the first Polar Security Cutter is scheduled to begin in early 2021 with delivery in 2024. The fiscal year 2021 President’s Budget requests full funding for the construction of the second Polar Security Cutter.

8 thoughts on ““Coast Guard Cutter Healy suffers fire, propulsion failure en route to Arctic” –News Release

  1. Well, thankfully great seamanship led to a quick extinguishment of the fire. No real surprise as Cuttermen are well-trained and highly motivated! 👍

    Also, the damage sound limited, but that’s yet to be determined with certainty.

    The big take-away is how this demonstrates how suddenly things can turn catastrophic. America has one breaker in drydock and one limping home after an engineering casualty. Seems I’ve read these warnings on a blog somewhere… Where was that???

    Luckily, with the 3 Polar and 3 medium icebreakers planned, and progress happening on the first new polar breaker, no hasty and imprudent decision to buy a COTS “interim” breaker needs to be done.

  2. Bad on the fire, good on the quick work by the crew to contain the damage. I have had the pleasure to tour two icebreakers and was impressed by the pride of everyone and the skill of the crew.

    If anyone is interested the link below is to an article i wrote after I toured the Healy a few years ago. Many pictures and my observations.

    A Luncheon Cruise & Tour on the Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy
    https://captnmike.com/2014/04/14/a-luncheon-cruise-tour-on-the-coast-guard-icebreaker-healy/

      • Sorry I can’t remember, they had a lot of doors to go through so they have the ability to isolate many areas for safety. From a design and safety standpoint it would make sense to be able to isolate the generators and drive motors based on should not have a problem but if there was a problem with one drive system it would need to be isolated – loosing booth drive systems would be a major problem.

  3. Healey is better than 20 years old. It is in the zone for equipment problems. If the insulation on the electric motor has burned it will be out for a while.

  4. Pingback: “A Luncheon Cruise & Tour on the Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy” –Captnmike | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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