The Congressional Research Service his issued a revised “Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” updated 9 August 2019.
It includes a short appendix (Appendix E, pp 63-66) on the issue of a potential new Great Lakes icebreaker. The final paragraph of that appendix states:
“An examination of procurement costs for Mackinaw, the National Science Foundation’s ice-capable research ship Sikuliaq, new oceanographic research ships being procured for NOAA, and OPCs suggests that a new Mackinaw-sized heavy Great Lakes icebreaker built in a U.S. shipyard might have a design and construction cost between $175 million and $300 million, depending on its exact capabilities and the acquisition strategy employed. The design portion of the ship’s cost might be reduced if Mackinaw’s design or the design of some other existing icebreaker were to be used as the parent design. Depending on the capabilities and other work load of the shipyard selected to build the ship, the construction time for a new heavy Great Lakes icebreaker might be less than that of a new heavy polar icebreaker.”
Great article from the Los Angeles Times about the trials, tribulations, (and joys) of being on the Polar Star, recounting her three and a half month 2018/2019 Deep Freeze.
And once again she goes into the dry dock in Vallejo, California, rather than a yard in her homeport (for 5 months). If you add it up, she spends more time in Vallejo than her homeport (3.5 months). Since she is being drydocked every year, maybe it is time to move the families closer to the shipyard. According to the article she is expected to continue in service another seven years.
Recently in response to my post “Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Shipping: We Need Icebreakers” –Marine Link, in which I suggested that the Great Lakes icebreaker might serve as a prototype for the three planned medium polar icebreakers, there was a comment from an Academy classmate, Capt. Fred Wilder, USCG (ret.), that was intended to link to a press release from the Lake Carriers’ Association, but for some reason the link was lost. I requested a copy of the news release from Capt. Wilder which he provided. It is reproduced below.
A week after the post linked above, I posted on why we might need icebreaker assets that could be drawn on by the Atlantic Fleet, in the form of icebreakers that could serve in both the Lakes and in the Atlantic Arctic.
Lake Carriers’ Association For Immediate Release August 1, 2019
Iced Out: Study Reveals Loss of More Than $1 Billion Due to Inadequate Icebreaking Capabilities on the Great Lakes
CLEVELAND – The U.S. economy lost more than $1 billion in business revenue and 5,421 jobs due to inadequate icebreaking capabilities on the Great Lakes during the 2018-2019 winter season.
Due to this loss of business revenue, the federal government missed out on more than $125 million in taxes and in addition $46 million was lost by state and local governments. For perspective, that loss means the U.S. government could build a new Great Lakes icebreaker and recoup those costs in two years.
“In response to a question at a recent Congressional hearing, we polled our members about the delays they incurred due to inadequate icebreaking this winter,” said Jim Weakley, President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “Once we had the total number of tons delayed and total hours they were delayed, we were able to calculate the additional cargo we could have moved had the Coast Guard been able to meet the needs of commerce. Using the economic model updated in July of 2018 by Martin Associates, it was determined that U.S. Economy lost over $1 billion as a result of the steel not made and the power not generated by the coal and iron ore the U.S.-flag fleet could not move.”
With robust icebreaking capabilities paving the way for commercial shipping, U.S.-flag Lakers could have carried 4 million additional tons of iron ore and 879,210 additional tons of coal. In other words, Lakers could have done an additional 860 trips delivering iron ore to steel mills and 21 trips delivering coal to power generation plants.
“A dynamic fleet of icebreaking assets is absolutely critical for our regional and national economy, especially our domestic steel and power generation industries which were hit hard this past winter season,” says Mark W. Barker, president of The Interlake Steamship Company, which moves nearly 20 million tons annually crisscrossing the Lakes more than 500 times between March and January. “Robust icebreaking capabilities enable the Coast Guard to deliver on its mission to facilitate the flow of commerce across our Great Lakes.”
Mark Pietrocarlo, Lake Carriers’ Association’s board chairman, noted, “The U.S. Coast Guard was down four icebreakers for a significant period of time this past winter and for the first time in memory, no icebreaker was left on Lake Superior when the Soo Locks closed from January 15th to March 25th. One icebreaker took seventeen months to repair, one was on the East Coast for a major overhaul and two others missed more than a month of icebreaking.”
“The economic impact on our customers and the supply chain they enable is significant and points out the need for a new icebreaker for the Great Lakes,” Pietrocarlo said. “Given the lost tax revenue the economic model calculated for the federal government, the payback period to the Treasury for the vessel is two years. Infrastructure investment isn’t just about fixing the roads, we also need to maintain our marine highways.”
About the study:
To estimate the economic impact of inadequate icebreaking during the typical ice conditions experienced on the Great Lakes during the 2018 – 2019 winter season, Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) asked U.S.-flag carriers to report their delays in hours and the number of tons carried during their delays.
The types of delays included being beset in the ice, at anchor awaiting an icebreaker, having to slow down due to inadequate icebreaking, waiting for Coast Guard permission to proceed, and waiting for a convoy to form.
In addition, hours lost due to repairing ice damage to vessels and the hours lost by vessels that delayed their initial sailing times due to inadequate icebreaking were factored in to the total.
LCA aggregated the fleet’s lost hours and tons delayed and determined that a total of 409,729 tons of coal were delayed for 206 hours. It also calculated that 2,186,361 tons of iron ore were delayed for a total of 1,586.5 hours. Since the vessels reporting were a combination of “footers” and smaller vessels, we used an average of 42,000 tons per trip. It was also assumed that a typical round trip for a U.S.-flag Laker takes 96 hours.
Economic Impact of Lost Tonnages due to inadequate icebreaking in the average winter of 2018/2019 (Source: Martin Associates)
4,000,000 ton loss of iron ore and 900,0000 ton loss of coal due to ice delays
- Direct Jobs 1,925
- Induced 1,666
- Indirect 1,829
- Total 5,421
PERSONAL INCOME (1,000)
- Direct $106,912
- Purchases $203,098
- Indirect $80,454
- Total $390,464
BUSINESS REVENUE (1,000)
LOCAL PURCHASES (1,000)
STATE AND LOCAL TAXES (1,000)
FEDERAL TAXES (1,000)
The data, showing tons by commodity, lost by the U.S.-flagged Great Lakes fleet, was supplied by the Lakes Carriers’ Association to Martin Associates. The July, 2018 updated Economic Impact study of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway – U.S. Flagged Fleet, developed jobs per ton and economic impact per ton ratios for iron ore, coal, limestone/aggregates and other dry bulk cargo. These ratios were then applied to the estimated loss of 4,000,000 tons of iron ore and 900,000 tons of coal for the relatively average winter of 2018/2019. The economic impacts of these delays are presented in terms of jobs and business revenue in table above. For more information about 2018 Economic Impact study of the Great Lakes, go to http://www.greatlakesseaway.org/resources/reports.
ABOUT LAKE CARRIERS’ ASSOCIATION: Since 1880, Lake Carriers’ has represented the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, which today can move more than 90 million tons of cargos annually that are the foundation of American industry, power, and construction: iron ore, limestone, coal, cement, and other dry bulk materials such as grain and sand. For more information contact Jim Weakley – 440-333-9995 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Times is reporting completion of China’s first domestically produced Polar Icebreaker. (Their existing polar icebreaker was built in the Ukraine.)
According to Wikipedia, she was designed by Finnish firm Aker Arctic Technology. Specs are as follows.
- Polar Class 3
- Double Acting, can break ice going ahead or astern
- Displacement of 14,300 tons
- Length: 122.5 metres (402 ft)
- Beam: 22.3 metres (73 ft)
- Draft: 8.3 metres (27 ft)
- Max Speed: 15 knots
- Accommodations: 90 Passengers and crew
- Diesel-electric propulsion system, two 16-cylinder, two 12-cylinder engines, both Wärtsilä 32-series, drive through two 7.5 MW Azipods. Just under 20,000 HP
It is a lot smaller than the planned Polar Security Cutter, but it is also larger and about as powerful and almost certainly more effective than the Glacier that served the US effectively for many years.
The hull and power plant looks like something we might want for our medium icebreakers, and I note, it looks like this size could negotiate the Saint Lawrence Seaway. That would mean a similar ship could potentially operate both on the Great Lakes and support Atlantic Fleet operations if required.
Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention.
Not surprisingly the Coast Guard has announced that Seattle is the planned homeport for the new Polar Security Cutter (heavy polar icebreaker). Below is the press release.
U.S. Coast Guard announces homeport of newest Polar Security Cutter
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard today announced that Seattle, Wash. will be the home of the service’s new Polar Security Cutters.
“I am pleased to announce that Seattle, Washington will be the home of the Coast Guard’s new Polar Security Cutters,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. “The Pacific Northwest has been the home of our icebreaking fleet since 1976, and I am confident that the Seattle area will continue to provide the support we need to carry out our critical operations in the polar regions.”
The U.S. Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency responsible for providing assured surface access in the polar regions. The addition of the Polar Security Cutters in Seattle will support the United States’ ability to conduct national missions, respond to critical events, and project American presence in the high latitudes.
The Coast Guard conducted a detailed analysis to identify locations that could accommodate the Polar Security Cutter. Based on operational and logistical needs, Seattle was determined to be the appropriate homeport for the first three Polar Security Cutters.
In April 2019, VT Halter Marine, Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi, was awarded a contract for the detail design and construction of the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter class.