Below is a news release reproduced in its entirety.
Coast Guard Cutter Healy suffers fire, propulsion failure en route to 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.
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.
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
Captnmike I have never bee aboard the Healy. Is the Main drive motors located in separate compartments?
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.
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.
Sharks gotta learn not to mess with the Coast Guard.
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Turns out there is a spare propulsion motor that has sat in Baltimore for 23 years:
Now the 106-ton piece of equipment will be shipped to the West Coast through the Panama Canal.
During the mission that was cut short by the fire, USCGC Healy was supposed to retrieve three scientific instruments that are used to measure mean temperature of the Arctic Ocean using acoustic signals. In order not to use valuable scientific data, the Norwegians have now sent the icebreaking offshore patrol vessel KV Svalbard to the Beaufort Sea to complete the task. The vessel is currently on a 5,700-nautical-mile high-latitude eastbound transit from Svalbard, following the ice edge and keeping clear of Russian territorial waters.
The following article is unfortunately in Norwegian:
Tups, thanks, Below is a google translation. Very impressive she made it to the North Pole without assistance. I presume this means that Svalbard will transit the Northern Sea Route without Russian assistance.
On 21 August last year, the coast guard ship KV Svalbard wrote polar history when they became the first Norwegian vessel to reach the North Pole.
The vessel then assisted in deploying four acoustic rigs in the ice-covered sea depths north of Svalbard. During the same period, three similar rigs were deployed in the Beaufort Sea supported by the US icebreaker USCGC Healy.
The rigs are anchored at about 4000 meters deep and protrude about 40 meters below the sea surface. The acoustic signals propagate throughout the Arctic Ocean and the time period of the signals between each rig is used to calculate the mean temperature in the deep sea.
In the summer of 2020 KV Svalbard assisted to bring in the four rigs that were deployed north of Svalbard, but as a result of fire on board the USCGC Healy, the three remaining rigs were still not collected.
If these are not recorded in a short period of time, there is a risk that important climate data will be lost.
“Research on sea ice and sea temperature is important for Norway and the world, and will give us new knowledge about the changes in Arctic waters,” says Chief Coast Guard Flag Commander Oliver Berdal
In a short period of time, the Coast Guard and navy have managed to turn around a precarious and difficult situation.
“I am impressed by the Coast Guard, which in a short period of time has managed to turn a precarious situation for the international research community into a feasible operation. A thorough risk assessment has been carried out, and vessels and crew are well prepared,” says Acting Chief of the Navy Flag Commander Gunnstein Bruåsdal.
KV Svalbard will now sail 5,700 nautical miles along the ice edge, across the Arctic Ocean to the Beaufort sea, and the fastest route back.
The vessel has a crew of 55 officers in addition to scientists taking part in the mission. Everyone on board has undergone thorough Covid-19 tests.
“We will not hide the fact that the climatic conditions in the area are beginning to become challenging at this time of year, but the Coast Guard has prepared well and made thorough risk assessments in advance of this operation,” says Berdal.
CAATEX is a Norwegian-American research project led by the Nansen Centre.
The Norwegian commitment is funded by the Research Council of Norway.
The main goal of the project is to measure the changes in the heat content in the Arctic Ocean compared to similar measurements from the 90’s.
“We will do our utmost to ensure that the buoys and information they carry are brought safely ashore,” berdal says.
KV Svalbard is indeed sailing independently along what could be referred to as “Central Arctic Passage”: it passed its namesake archipelago as well as Franz Josef Land (the northernmost point of land in the eastern hemisphere) and Severnaya Zemlya from the northern side well outside of Russian territorial waters.
Actually avoiding the Northern Sea Route, which Russia is trying to monetize. Return trip may be more difficult. This does suggest the Canadian AOPS may be more capable than many have suggested, since they are similar ships only slightly less capable.
While the Google translation was already quite good, here is an English-language article about Svalbard’s voyage:
It will indeed be interesting to see what route they will use for the return leg.
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Photographs of the propulsion motor replacement:
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy propulsion motor replacement timelapse:
Thanks to Mike B. for bringing this to my attention.
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