The U.S. Coast Guard released a formal request for information seeking to identify U.S.-built commercial icebreakers that might be available for purchase. With promises of funding from the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress, the Department of Homeland Security published on May 3, the request for information as the first step in the possible purchase of a vessel to bridge the gap until the newly built polar security cutters, which are behind schedule, are commissioned and available for service late this decade.
We knew there would be such an attempt to find an available icebreaker, but look at the specs.
“…USCG is now seeking to identify commercial vessels that are available for purchase in 2023 or 2024. To meet the request the vessels must not only have been built in a U.S. shipyard but must have PC3 or higher classification and the capability of breaking at least three feet of ice ahead at a continuous speed of three knots. Further, it must have at least 15 years of original design service life remaining and be capable of operations for a minimum of 60 days without resupply. Other specifications include a maximum draft of 29 feet and a landing area of Coast Guard helicopters.”
There cannot be many, there may be only one, there may be none.
If we do find such a vessel, it will probably take some work to bring it up to Coast Guard standards for communications and helicopter operations.
If nothing else, it might fill the perceived need for a second Great Lakes Icebreaker.
Thanks to Paul for bring this to my attention.
The owners of Aiviq have been pitching it to the USCG and Congress ever since the Shell Arctic venture was cancelled. It appears that this spec is designed to target Aiviq. Maybe the Guard will finally get its WATB (Coast Guard Arctic Tug Breaker). Aiviq could actually be a fine vessel for response to a disabled cruise ship with a very high bollard pull and towing winch. Yes, Aiviq could easily handle any Great Lakes ice conditions and transit to the Arctic for summer. Crew fatigue and days away from home port might be an issue if it is used this way though.
This is in ADDITION to the 2nd Great Lakes Icebreaker.
Also, search in the PresBud for GENTIAN.
First, Chuck, thanks again for keeping us informed on all things USCG related. It is most appreciated!
Second, I’m glad that at least they’re doing something. As we all know, this issue is well past due to be addressed. I agree that this seems like a great off the shelf solution to fill an immediate gap. The only concern that I would have is the helo deck being at the front of the ship. Even if we did accept this design with the needed interior modifications, I just don’t see us ever having an exposed helo on deck, let alone up on the bow. For Great lakes usage as ropeyarns mentioned above, it would be fine as there would be no embarked helo. For trips North or South, I would have to think we would require a hangar of some sort.
When the Royal Navy took over a commercial ice strengthened ship and converted it, they moved the helo deck aft.
I can’t see us sending a helo equipped ship to high lattitudes without a hangar.
Article from 2016 with an image of a reconfigured Aviq
While I agree that a forward flight deck in the polar regions demands helo shelter, I would say their are a couple of alternatives to built in hangars. Stressed tents like the USN and RFA have used for years. Or the midships deck with a smaller aircraft working station.
She could be converted with a stern helo deck and hangar added. Shouldn’t be too difficult to do as the rear cargo area wouldn’t be of utility for her intended use.
You should look at the total cost to perform those mods and compare it to the design proposed by owners
This stinks to HIGH Heaven. The CG must have has been bamboozled by some Congress Critters to request this after the CG refused for years to take this from the likes of Duncan Hunter (Convicted Congressman that Trump pardoned) and Don Young (RIP) from Alaska and now Alaskan Senator Sullivan is pushing it too.
Interesting notes: (per https://www.alaskapublic.org/2021/12/23/sullivan-still-seeking-a-bridge-ship-to-fill-the-icebreaker-gap/)
In the 2020 election, the owners and executives of Edison Chouest were among Young’s top campaign donors.
In 2016, the shipbuilders made political contributions totaling more than $2 million, mostly to Republicans, including the campaigns of both Alaska senators.
Edison Chouest also spends $300,000 a year to lobby Congress, partly on federal ship acquisition. The company did not respond to a phone message seeking information for this story.
Chouest Campaign Contributions: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/edison-chouest-offshore/summary?id=D000033379 (note, retrofit will happen in Oregon)
We need the likes of Adm. Zukunft and Michel back, who told these congress critters to go shove it when they tried to shove this ship down our throats back in 2015/2016.
I don’t think the Coast Guard ever asked for this.
Congress always has and always will insert itself into US govt ship procurements, get over it~
” …If nothing else, it might fill the perceived need for a second Great Lakes Icebreaker. …”
Chuck, doesn’t Aiviq exceed both Seawaymax beam and draft restrictions?
@W B Young, you are right. maximum allowed vessel size: 740 ft (225.6 m) long, 78 ft (23.8 m) wide, and 26.5 ft (8.1 m) deep. Aiviq beam 24.4 m (80 ft 1 in); draft 8.6 m (28 ft 3 in).
Paging Chuck Hill,
Your wanted in the ward room and you need to see this
Austal Unveils New ‘Offshore Patrol 60’ Range Of OPVs
So what Nicky? There are OTHER foreign OPVs which are ice capable, but few with all the features desired
Admiral Schultz draws a connection between Aiviq… I mean, a commercial icebreaker the USCG might acquire in the future, and the upcoming Arctic Security Cutters:
What worries me is that some may perceive Aiviq as a great opportunity for the USCG without understanding that as a commercial offshore vessel it’s quite different from the purpose-built icebreakers that the Coast Guard is used to operate. While both the USCG and CCG have been in dire need of modern icebreakers for years, neither has previously been very keen on acquiring the great white elephant of Florida. Knowing that some of the stains in Aiviq’s career are at least partly result of design issues (those notorious fuel tank vents), do we know the whole story about this “great opportunity” or is the USCG being pushed to purchase a vessel that may require extensive reworking to bring it up to fleet standard? There may even be such inherent design issues that cannot be fixed without gutting the whole ship.
I share your concern. So why buy the ship, why not lease it? If it works we can purchase, if not we can let the lease lapse.
If bought, conversion/refit options are fairly straightforward. If leased, and the owner wants to maintain the “sell/lease it to an oil co” option in the future, things are a little more complex.
@Moose, even so, MSC does leasing all the time, including substantial alterations.
This ship could be procured a couple of way. It all depends on HOW LONG the USCG needs the ship in service.
Purchase is more expensive and time consuming, but more mods can be incorporated. Then the USCG is stuck with the ship for some time forward.
OR the ship could be bareboat chartered (like MSC has done many times) which would get the ship upfront much faster, then the mods could be done, and ship could be in service in as little as a year. IF BBC, the ship would be redelivered to its owners less fair wear and tear and with some mods removed.
The ship could be fully crewed by USCG, or a hybrid CG and civilian crew which would be less costly and get maritime union support ergo more congressional help.
Another view here: https://www.marinelog.com/news/is-uscg-getting-serious-about-buying-chouest-icebreaker/?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=32733
Given the high cost and timeline for USCG to get their new PSC into service, this sounds reasonable. And regardless of which vessel is selected the USCG will probably have to accept an 80% solution.
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