Is this a German Buoy Tender? Icebreaker?

SCHOTTEL Mehrzweckschiffe

It is always interesting to find that others deal with missions you perform in a very different way.

A Marine Link report on the new ship above piqued my curiosity about the parent agency. The German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV),

“… is responsible for ensuring a safe, smoothly flowing and thus economically efficient shipping traffic. The tasks comprise the maintenance, operation as well as the upgrading and construction of the federal waterways including the locks, weirs, bridges and shiplifts.

The responsibility of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration extends to a total of 23,000 km² of maritime waterways and approximately 7,300 km of inland waterways. In addition, we maintain Vessel Traffic Service Centres at waterways in the coastal area and traffic control centres at inland waterways and we use special vessels for different specialist tasks (buoy laying, emergency missions, direction-finding etc.).

Around the clock, our experts on the water and ashore ensure safe traffic flows.

Our leitmotif is: “Facilitate mobility and protect the environment!”

Sounds like it has some of the Coast Guard’s missions and some Corps of Engineers missions.

The ship itself is described as multi-purpose. Presumably it tends buoys, but it is far bigger and more powerful than any USCG buoy tender, at over 90 meters (290′) in length driven by two steerable propulsion units of 4,500 KW each (over 12,000 HP total). It also has a 2,990 kW (over 4,000 HP) pumpjet.  Our most similar ship seems to be USCGC Mackinaw. (240′ in length and 9,119 shp/6.8 MW).

Mackinaw is of course a domestic icebreaker, in addition to being able to tend buoys.  The new German ship looks like it might also be capable of light icebreaking. (Maybe Tups who comments here frequently would be able to tell us.)

SCHOTTEL RudderPropellers type SRP 750 (each 4,500 kW at 750 rpm) on the left. SCHOTTEL PumpJet type SPJ 520 (2,990 kW) on the right. Image: SCHOTTEL

The German ship also has a gas-tight “citadel” structure with a protective air supply, in order to carry out operations in hazardous atmospheres. In the Coast Guard only the National Security Cutters have this feature.

Canada’s HMCS Harry DeWolf Class AOPS

HMCS Harry DeWolf in ice (6-8 second exposure)

The Harry DeWolf class is an almost unique type of ship. Canada is building eight, six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard. It is derived from the similar and perhaps slightly more capable Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard, which has made it to the North Pole and recently undertook a mission the Healy was unable to complete due to a machinery casualty.

They are classified as “Artic and Offshore Patrol Ships” or AOPS, rather than icebreakers, but they are clearly designed to operate in ice and are rated Polar Class 5 (Year-round operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions). In many ways they approximate the similarly sized and powered old Wind Class icebreakers. (2012 post on the class with updates in the comments here.)

Below are another photo and a couple of videos, but first the specs.

  • Displacement: 6,615 t (6,511 long tons)
  • Length: 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in)
  • Beam: 19 m (62 ft 4 in)
  • Draft: 6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) (estimate based on that of Svalbard)
  • Propulsion Generators: Four 3.6 MW (4,800 hp)
  • Propulsion Motors: 2 × 4.5 MW (6,000 hp)
  • Speed: 17 knots
  • Endurance: 6,800 nautical miles
  • Crew: 65 (accomodations for 85)
  • Armament: one 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system modified for Arctic Conditions and two .50 cal. machine guns (I do feel this is inadequate.)

HMCS Harry DeWolf looking forward, bow and 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system.


“Coast Guard awards task order for Polar Star service life extension contract” –CG-9

USCGC Polar Star in dry dock, Mare Island Dry Dock LLC, Vallejo, CA. Photo: Official USCG Polar Star Facebook

Below is information from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) about the coming Service Life Extension planned for USCGC Polar Star. The SLEP is to be extended over five years and will be conducted during annual availabilities at a Shipyard in Vallejo, California.

I really would have thought the Coast Guard would have recognized the stress these long periods away from homeport are having on the crew and changed the ship’s homeport to the San Francisco Bay area. Its not too late.


The Coast Guard awarded a task order with a total value of $11.1 million Feb. 19 to execute Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star service life extension project (SLEP) activities under an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with Mare Island Dry Dock LLC of Vallejo, California. The task order will cover annual maintenance of the cutter and support systems as well as SLEP work items including propulsion hub removal and reinstallations for all three propulsion shafts, boiler biennial maintenance and recapitalization of the starboard disconnect coupling on the main reduction gear. The Polar Star SLEP is part of the Coast Guard’s In-Service Vessel Sustainment program.

The Polar Star SLEP will recapitalize targeted systems such as the propulsion, communication and machinery control systems and conduct major maintenance to extend the cutter’s service life by four years. By replacing obsolete, unsupportable or maintenance-intensive equipment, the Coast Guard will mitigate the risk of lost operational days due to unplanned maintenance or system failures. The SLEP work items and recurring maintenance will take place within a five-year, annually phased production schedule running from 2021 through 2025. Each phase will be coordinated so that operational commitments such as Operation Deep Freeze missions in Antarctica will still be met.

Work under this task order will begin later this year. The Polar Star is completing a historic mission this winter to support national security objectives in the Arctic. The 399-foot cutter, commissioned in 1976 and the nation’s only active heavy icebreaker, supports nine of the 11 Coast Guard statutory missions.

The Coast Guard is also investing in a new fleet of polar security cutters (PSCs) that will sustain the service’s capabilities to meet mission needs in the Arctic and the Antarctic. The first PSC, currently under design, is on contract for delivery in 2024.

For more information: In-Service Vessel Sustainment program page and Polar Security Cutter program page

“U.S. Navy Reports On Arctic And North Atlantic” –Naval News

Official portrait of Admiral Burke as Commander NAVEUR-NAVAF

Naval News reports on a Webinar conducted by Admiral Robert Burke who is Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and Commander of Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples. Previously he served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He is a submariner. Sounds like he spent some time under the ice.

There is a lot here about the Arctic. Keep in mind he is talking primarily about the Atlantic side rather than the waters around Alaska. This is primarily about the Russian threat, but there are concerns about China as well.

“Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region” –D17

JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel en route Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Woods.

Below is a District 17 News release regarding USCGC Polar Star’s unusual Winter Arctic deployment. (I did do some editing to remove repetition in the photo captions.)

united states coast guard


News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 463-2065
After Hours: (907) 463-2065
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region

JUNEAU, Alaska - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor up in Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021, as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment.  In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor Juneau, Alaska, Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Trevor Bannerman.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) arrived in Juneau, Friday, for a logistics stop as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment conducting scientific research and protecting the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the polar region.

In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.

“The Arctic is cold, dark, and difficult to navigate in the winter,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, the Polar Star’s commanding officer. “Deploying with researchers and scientists aboard has aided in the development, understanding and pursuit of technologies that will mitigate risks and enable future mission performance so that looking forward, the Coast Guard can safely operate continually and effectively in this remote environment.”

Working aboard Polar Star, Shalane Regan, a member of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), teamed up with Lt. Lydia Ames, a NOAA Corps officer to assist CRREL researchers by deploying buoys onto the ice where they will, over time, collect and transmit information about ice flow to help fill in data gaps for higher latitude oceans.

The Polar Star crew also aided in a research project concerning water flow regimes in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea, a study developed by Dr. Robert Pickart of WHOI. The data collected during Polar Star’s patrol will be used to develop a more complete understanding of the hydrology of the dynamic region.

To support Dr. Pickart’s research, WHOI provided 120 Expendable Conductivity-Temperature- Depth (XCTD) instruments to measure temperature and salinity. These profiles of the water column will give a better picture of what water and nutrient flow look like in the Arctic winter. Polar Star crew members deployed the probes every 12 hours when above 65 degrees north.

Additionally, Regan, who is a mechanical engineer and researcher with the RDC Surface Branch, worked with other scientists and researchers on board to find ways to operate most effectively in the frigid Arctic environment.

For technology, Regan brought a 3D printer and Remotely Operated Vehicle aboard Polar Star to evaluate how the systems would react to the Arctic climate and ship life.

“I used the 3D printer to complete many small projects that resulted in large lifestyle improvements for the crew,” said Regan. “Most importantly, the knowledge I was able to gather about larger issues the crew faces, for example, visibility issues due to frost accumulation on the bridge windows, I can take home for my team to develop solutions that will create a better-equipped, mission-ready fleet.”

Another big item the RDC team is focusing on is underway connectivity, specifically in the Arctic region.

To better understand high latitude communications, The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) was installed on Polar Star to test its abilities at high latitudes in the harsh Arctic winter conditions. Developed for the U.S. Navy by Lockheed Martin, the MUOS is an ultra-high frequency satellite communications system that provides secure connections for mobile forces.

“Looking towards the future, all signs point toward the Coast Guard deploying more platforms to the Arctic, more often and during different seasons of the year,” said Woityra. “The Coast Guard is robustly proficient at summer-time Arctic operations, while winter presents an entirely new set of challenges. Polar Star’s winter Arctic deployment has served to better understand and prepare for the challenges of operating in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

The cutter will be visiting Juneau to close out its operational patrol and will be moored downtown through the weekend. Due to COVID-19, the cutter will not be open to the public for tours. 


Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

“China Navy deploys its Type 272 icebreaker ship Haibing to carry out 84th ice survey mission”

Chinese Navy Type 723 icebreaker ship Haibing. (Picture source China MoD)

Navy Recognition reports,

“According to information published by the Chinese Ministry of Defense on January 29, 2021, the Chinese Navy sent the Type 272 icebreaker ship Haibing (Sea Ice, Hull 722) to the Bohai Sea and the northern waters of the Yellow Sea to perform the 84th ice survey mission on January 25, 2021.”

The accompanying photo (above) is the first I have seen of this ship. An older Global Security post has a description of the vessel and its activities.

Reportedly its specifications include:

  • Displacement: 4,800 tons (probably a light displacement)
  • Length: 103.1 meters (338′)
  • Beam: 18.4 meters (60.4′)
  • Speed: 18 knots

It appears to be smaller, longer, and narrower than the Wind Class icebreakers the US built in the 1940s.

  • Displacement: 6,500 tons full load
  • Length: 269′ (82m)
  • Beam: 63.5′ (19.5m)

Length to beam ratio is narrow for an icebreaker at 5.6:1. There is a finer taper on the bow and stern than you might expect.

Length to beam ratio for US icebreaker designs are:

  • Wind Class: 4.24
  • Glacier: 4.18
  • Polar Star: 4.77
  • Polar Security Cutter: 5.23

Only the PSC, designed for long open ocean voyages, comes close.

This Chinese icebreaker entered service just over five years ago. It is one of a class of two, is unarmed, and it appears its operations have been confined to the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea, a Westward extension of the Yellow Sea. It almost certainly has less than 20,000 HP so would be considered a light icebreaker by the USCG.

“A Break in the Silence: Anecdote from a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker’s winter Arctic patrol” –News Release

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, January 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

A PACAREA news release. Apparently operating in the Arctic in the Winter still holds some surprises. Nice photos too.

united states coast guard

Feature Release

Jan. 29, 2021
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3375
After Hours: (510) 816-1700
Pacific Area online newsroom

A Break in the Silence: Anecdote from a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker’s winter Arctic patrol

Co-written by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham & Petty Officer 2nd Class Tedd Meinersmann

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021
Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

On a months-long winter mission to project U.S. presence and sovereignty into the Arctic, and to conduct scientific research in the remote area, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker, is using its one-of-a-kind capability to navigate the dark polar wilderness.

After departing Seattle, crossing the Gulf of Alaska and transiting the Bering Sea’s treacherous waters, where 20-foot swells mercilessly tossed the mighty Coast Guard ship, the resilient crew traversed the Arctic Circle into equally windy, but far calmer, ice-bound waters.

After a few dark days and nights of the Polar Star methodically backing and ramming northbound through the Chukchi Sea’s heavy blanket of sea ice, crewmembers started to chatter about something keeping them up at night.

The polar sailors, many who sleep in staterooms on a lower deck of the ship, were taking collective notice of a persistently clamorous sound.

Though the crew who serves aboard Polar Star are not strangers to ice-serenaded work and slumber, this Arctic patrol was audibly different than prior, more routine icebreaking deployments to the opposite end of the world.  

Polar Star annually travels to world’s southernmost continent in support of Operation Deep Freeze where skilled ice pilots drive the powerful ship through ice up to 21-feet thick. The icebreaking mission opens critical navigation channels for other ships allowing for essential supplies to be delivered to scientists conducting research at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

When, earlier in 2020, Operation Deep Freeze was cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns at the station, the Polar Star crew instead headed north on the Chukchi Sea – farther north than any U.S. surface ship ever travelled in the winter – in support of the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy.

Navigating one of the world’s most northern frozen oceans presented the Polar Star crew an auditory experience far different than its southern sister ice. No two crewmembers describe the omnipresent sound of patrolling the Chukchi Sea similarly and creative metaphors for labeling the noise quickly became an amusing way for the crew to make light of the often palpable noise.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021

Like screeches and bangs from a perpetual car crash, a blaring elephant, freight train, or driving through concrete, freshly broken Arctic sea ice, scraping alongside the Polar Star’s hull, holds the likeness of screaming. It was a mysterious conundrum leaving many of the crew wide-eyed and wondering “why is this Arctic ice so loud?”

Fortunately, the Polar Star deployed north with a handful of scientists and researchers to advise the command and collect Arctic data in an effort to lessen the void of information available from the region. Evan Neuwirth, an ice analyst from the U.S. National Ice Center in Washington, D.C., is aboard Polar Star and proposed a theory about why navigating through Arctic ice is so noisy.

Neuwirth said temperature may be the greatest factor contributing to the sound heard while icebreaking. Sea ice in the winter is generally more dense, cold and brittle than in the summer. When winter Arctic ice strikes or rubs alongside the Polar Star’s exterior, more of the impact energy is transferred to the hull which results in a louder noise. Ice the crew experiences on their southern summer patrols is warmer and softer, making it more likely to compress and crush on impact with Polar Star – resulting in the absorption of energy that would otherwise result in a lot of noise.  

To best understand his theory, Neuwirth said to think of what it would sound like to throw a snowball at the ship’s hull versus a solid chunk of ice.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021

The winter Arctic air and ice is so cold, often well below zero with the wind temperature factored in, that even after being broken into pieces, the ice chunks remain rock-hard creating the notorious noise made in the process that has, for the most part, been accepted by the crew as part of their unique, historic polar experience.

By experiencing and operating in one of the world’s most remote and harsh environments, the Polar Star crew is gaining critical familiarity of the Arctic necessary to develop and train future polar sailors and advance U.S. interests and power in the region.

As the Polar Star’s understanding of the Arctic grows by the day, one thing the crew knows for sure is that patrolling the frozen winter world above the Arctic Circle is desolate, dark and serene, but from aboard the Coast Guard Polar Star – it’s far from silent.

“The great lakes are freezing at a glacial pace” –CNN

Beset in ice, the M/V Stewart J. Cort and three other Great Lakes vessels await the assistance of an icebreaker on Lake Superior–not from this year.

The weather reported here will certainly have an effect on this year’s Great Lakes icebreaking requirements and may ultimately effect what seems to be the perpetual push for another Great Lakes icebreaker.

“…Great Lakes are currently dealing with record low ice. According to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), the Great Lakes total ice coverage right now is sitting at 3.9%. This same time last year, it was sitting at 11.3%, and the year before at 18.5%…”The Great Lakes region is experiencing warmer-than-usual weather, and the max ice cover is projected to be 30%, way below the average of 53%…”

“Removable bow turns tugboat into icebreaker” –Marine Log

image description

Motorized bow enables tugboat to break ice up to 70 cm (2.3 feet/27.6″) thick

MarineLog reports progress on this. We talked about this earlier, looks like this is happening. This description from the earlier report.

Danfoss Editron’s hybrid electric system will powering the removable bow with two generators, built as a DC system, and two propulsion systems. In addition, the company has provided a front supercapacitor so that peak powers can be efficiently controlled. The Editron software also cuts fuel consumption and delivers high efficiencies as the diesel-generators in the DC system can be driven at variable speeds.

Lake Saimaa, where it operates is not very large. Looks like it is about 40 miles from corner to corner. Note while the tug pushing it is not an icebreaker, it is ice strengthened.

Below is a comment on the earlier post by, Tups, a Finn, and our resident icebreaker expert.

“… the technology is easily scalable and, since you don’t have to worry about seakeeping during the open water season – you can go for a slightly more “extreme” icebreaking bow to increase the performance at the cost of slamming impacts in head seas. Perhaps this could be a solution for commercial (contracted) icebreaking in the Great Lakes?

“By the way, this relates to another post you published some time ago – the tug that pushes the removable bow is the one that was fitted with the new ice-strengthened bronze propellers.”