“Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” –Congressional Research Service

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice around the Russian-flagged tanker Renda 250 miles south of Nome Jan. 6, 2012. The Healy is the Coast Guard’s only currently operating polar icebreaker. The vessels are transiting through ice up to five-feet thick in this area. The 370-foot tanker Renda will have to go through more than 300 miles of sea ice to get to Nome, a city of about 3,500 people on the western Alaska coastline that did not get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm. If the delivery of diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline is not made, the city likely will run short of fuel supplies before another barge delivery can be made in spring. (AP Photo/US Coast Guard – Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis) NY112

Oct. 26, 2018 The Congressional Research Service issued an update of their research into the Coast Guard’s “Polar Security Cutter” (Polar Icebreaker) program. Summarizing the major relatively recent developments:

  • The likely price of three cutters is expected to be $2.1B meaning the price of the icebreaker is very close to that of the National Security Cutter. 
  • Building a single class of more than three ships, rather than a mix of Heavy and Medium capability ships is being seriously considered. This is now more likely as it appears a ship, smaller cheaper than previously envisioned, can provide the “Heavy Icebreaker” capability.

I have provided the Summary below. 

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program, previously known as the polar icebreaker (PIB) program, is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard wants to begin construction of the first new heavy polar icebreaker in FY2019 and have it enter service in 2023. The PSC program has received about $359.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2018, including $300 million provided through the Navy’s shipbuilding account and $59.6 million provided through the Coast Guard’s acquisition account. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $750 million in Coast Guard acquisition funding for the program.

The acquisition cost of a new heavy polar icebreaker had earlier been estimated informally at roughly $1 billion, but the Coast Guard and Navy now believe that three heavy polar icebreakers could be acquired for a total cost of about $2.1 billion, or an average of about $700 million per ship. The first ship will cost more than the other two because it will incorporate design costs for the class and be at the start of the production learning curve for the class. When combined with the program’s $359.6 million in prior-year funding, the $750 million requested for FY2019 would fully fund the procurement of the first new heavy polar icebreaker and partially fund the procurement of the second.

The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. Polar Sea, however, suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been nonoperational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. The Coast Guard has used Polar Sea as a source of spare parts for keeping Polar Star operational.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Mission Need Statement (MNS) approved in June 2013 states that “current requirements and future projections … indicate the Coast Guard will need to expand its icebreaking capacity, potentially requiring a fleet of up to six icebreakers (3 heavy and 3 medium) to adequately meet mission demands in the high latitudes….”

The current condition of the U.S. polar icebreaker fleet, the DHS MNS, and concerns among some observers about whether the United States is adequately investing in capabilities to carry out its responsibilities and defend its interests in the Arctic, have focused policymaker attention on the question of whether and when to acquire one or more new heavy polar icebreakers as replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea.

On March 2, 2018, the U.S. Navy, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard under the polar icebreaker integrated program office, released a request for proposal (RFP) for the advance procurement and detail design for the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker, with options for detail design and construction for up to three heavy polar icebreakers.

Issues for Congress for FY2019 for the polar icebreaker program include, inter alia, whether to approve, reject, or modify the Coast Guard’s FY2019 acquisition funding request; whether to use a contract with options or a block buy contract to acquire the ships; whether to continue providing at least some of the acquisition funding for the PSC program through the Navy’s shipbuilding account; and whether to procure heavy and medium polar icebreakers to a common basic design.

“Hit by Hurricane Michael, Eastern Shipbuilding starts recovery efforts”–MarineLog

WeatherNation showed this image of storm damaged trawler that had been nearing completion at Eastern

Marine Log reports:

Both of Panama City, FL, headquartered Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s shipyards have been damaged by Category 4 Hurricane Michael.

Just one indication of the severity of the storm: The 261-foot Alaska factory trawler North Star, which had been nearing completion at Eastern, was pictured resting on its starboard side in the waters of Saint Andrews Bay, FL, October 12, after being swept from its moorings.

Eastern was of course awarded a contract for detail design and construction of the first of the Offshore Patrol Cutters with options for eight more. No idea how this will affect the project.

New OPV for the Philippines

The Philippines has a requirement for six new ocean-going Offshore Patrol Vessels, and the Austal shipyard in the Philippines is making an offer.

Their design is 81.7 meters (268 feet) in length overall, with a beam of 13.3 meters (43.6 feet), and a draft of 4 meters (13.1 feet), so, similar in size to the Bear class cutters, with perhaps slightly greater displacement. The illustration shows a ship armed with a 76mm Oto Melara Super Rapid naval gun, and two auto-cannon. It has a helicopter landing deck but no hangar.

It is apparently equipped with a stern boat ramp and boat davit starboard.

There is no information on speed, but I would guess 20 to 22 knots on a pair of diesels.

Contracts for First OPC, Long Lead Time Items for OPC#2, and NSC#11

The Acquisitions Directorate has been busy. They report exercising a $317.5M contract option for construction of the first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Argus, and long lead time items (propeller and steering components, marine diesel engines, the ship integrated control system, switchboards, and generators), for the second OPC, USCGC Chase. Delivery of Argus is expected in 2021. 

They also report exercising an option for long lead time items for an as yet unnamed eleventh National Security Cutter (NSC).

“The option exercise is valued at approximately $97.1 million. This amount supports the initial order of long lead time components and material necessary to prepare for the construction of the new cutter, including steel plating, propulsion system, marine turbine/diesel engines, air search radar, ship integrated control system, switchboards and generators.”

NSC names

We currently have names for the first nine NSCs.

I am hoping we will name one for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb, who was CO of the Cutter Hudson at the Battle of Cardenas Bay. He really should have gotten the Metal of Honor. It would also give us a nice tie into the Navy since they had a heroic destroyer named for Newcomb. 

I also think Walsh would be a good choice. His Navy Cross citation.

WALSH, Quentin R., CDR, (Retired as Captain) USCG, Navy Cross, For heroism as Commanding Officer of a U.S. Naval party reconnoitering the naval facilities and naval arsenal at Cherbourg June 26 and 27, 1944. While in command of reconnaissance party, Commander Walsh entered the port of Cherbourg and penetrated the eastern half of the city, engaged in street fighting with the enemy. He accepted the surrender and disarmed 400 of the enemy force at the naval arsenal and later received unconditional surrender of 350 enemy troops and at the same time released 52 captured U.S. Army paratroopers.


National Security Cutters Waesche and Bertholf (far right) moored at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Calif., next to 378-foot Coast Guard Cutters Morgenthau (far left), Sherman and Boutwell, July 22, 2010. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa Leake.

I am passing along this ALCOAST for any in the sea going community that may have missed it. Some good information about the status of building programs. There is a essay/poem/chanty contest. See paragraph 4.a.


R 241155 SEP 18
UNCLAS //N01710//
ALCOAST 326/18
1. The Coast Guard Office of Cutter Forces (CG-751), the Heart of the Service, is
sponsoring a Sea Service Celebration centered around 18 October 2018 that honors
the sacrifices of the men and women serving aboard Coast Guard cutters, and
highlights the hard work of the thousands of shoreside administrative, training,
and engineering personnel who enable our fleet to operate. On 18 October 1974,
the Office of Personnel promulgated the Coast Guard Cutterman Insignia program,
to “recognize the contributions and qualifications of our personnel.” Today the
Cutterman pin represents the personal fulfillment of the professional training
and sea service associated with a seagoing Coast Guard career. Additionally, there
are many serving who do not wear Cutterman pins yet make considerable contributions
to the cutter community, and the Sea Service celebration calls special attention
to their contributions as well.
2. Since 1790, professional mariners have manned the decks of our cutters and braved
the high seas, Great Lakes, and our inland waterways. This year, we celebrate more
than 228 years of our sea-going traditions, currently upheld by the nearly 8,000
active duty personnel aboard our 248 cutters. The theme of this year’s Celebration
is “Why I Go to Sea.” As nearly 20% of our active duty force serves afloat, it is
important that we recognize and celebrate those aspects of the arduous yet
incredibly rewarding profession that our mariners embrace.
3. These are exciting times to be a Cutterman – there is a great need for Coasties
who desire to crew our rapidly modernizing fleet. In funding new cutter
acquisitions, the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill made the Coast Guard a $12
Billion organization for the first time in our history. The keel for STONE, the
9th National Security Cutter (NSC), is being laid this month, and we will be
constructing hulls #10 & #11. 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters are planned and production
on the ARGUS, hull #1, is funded with an anticipated delivery in FY 2021. 28 Fast
Response Cutters (FRC) are in commission out of the 58 planned for the domestic
program of record, with an additional 6 scheduled for commissioning in FY 2019 alone;
we are also preparing to transition FRCs to PATFORSWA. The Waterways Commerce
Cutter received funding for expedited development of plans for a replacement of
the WLIC/WLI/WLR cutters. Finally, the Polar Security Cutter is moving forward in
the acquisition process and will award the contract in FY 2019. These substantial
national investments are clear evidence of the great value American leadership
places in the hard work of our professional mariners and support personnel
4. As part of this year’s Sea Service Celebration, COMDT (CG-751) encourages all
Cuttermen & operational commanders to participate in the following events:
a. One-page essay/poem/chanty contest: By 15 October 2018, our current, past
and aspiring future professional mariners are invited to submit a one-page essay,
poem, or chanty on the theme of “Why I Go to Sea.” Potential topics include, but
are not limited to, the missions, best sea stories, traditions, lore, history,
professional incentives, etc. Submissions will be judged on creativity and
ability to inspire Coasties to answer the call and stand the watch. Submissions
have no format requirement besides the page limit and must include the name of
the author, unless unit, department, or group name applies. Pictures are also
encouraged, and if included may take up an additional page. A suggested
essay/prose template is posted on the COMDT (CG-751) portal at:
Chain of command approved contest submissions should be sent via email to the
two POCs listed below. The top three winning entries will be posted on the COMDT
(CG-751) portal page and social media platforms, and shared with Surface Naval
Association Presidents, Rating Force Master Chiefs, and Operational Commanders
for distribution within the cutter community.
b. Cutter Public Affairs Officers (PAO) are encouraged to utilize their
Official Facebook pages to post CO/OIC-approved photos and media under the
hashtag #WhyIGoToSea throughout the year.
c. Local events: All commands are encouraged to host appropriate functions
that celebrate sea service traditions during the month of October, particularly
on 18 October. Suggestions include: local Cuttermen’s Calls, Dining-Ins, or cutter
round-ups with friendly competitions (DC Olympics, shiphandling challenge, etc.).
d. Cuttermen may join prose to a one to two minute video for possible posting
on District, Area, and HQ blogs and Facebook sites
(http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/official-sites/ or https://www.uscg.mil/home/).
Pictures and video can be submitted by using the Visual Information Management
System (VIMS) at: http://www.uscg.work/vims, choosing your local PA office, and the tag
#WhyIGoToSea. Also submit by 01 October 2018 at:
http://navysna.org/awards/komorowski-photo/ &
http://navysna.org/awards/video-competition.html for a concurrent SNA competition.
5. For more information, contact LT Paul Ledbetter at Paul.A.Ledbetter@uscg.mil and
LT Micah Howell at Micah.D.Howell@uscg.mil.
6. RDML Michael P. Ryan, Assistant Commandant for Capability, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

Estonia’s Hybrid Patrol Boat

MarineLink reports on a new patrol boat for the Estonian Coast Guard, only slightly smaller than the Webber class WPCs. What makes this vessel unique, is the use of a hybrid propulsion plant. It can operate in diesel, diesel-electric, or battery powered modes. Reportedly the maximum speed is 27 knots while the electric modes allow quiet, economical, low emissions cruising at up to 10 knots.

“The needs of the patrol boat made it an excellent project to build as a hybrid vessel. For example, the hybrid electric benefit of engine redundancy is important for the Estonian Coast Guard — in case of engine failure, you can switch to diesel-electric or batteries — while you also have improved fuel efficiency, and much lower noise levels in diesel-electric and fully-electric modes when compared to big diesel engines, which is a big benefit for the crew.”

They see these vessels as multi-mission, but there is a strong emphasis on pollution detection.

“While the wave-piercing ship will also be used for patrolling, firefighting and search and rescue missions in Estonian waters, its main role will be monitoring and responding to pollution threats, using state-of-the-art radar that can detect surface contamination, such as oil spills, from up to five miles away.”

New Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreakers

NavyRecognition provides us some information on a new class of Russian nuclear powered Icebreaker. They are, to say the least, huge.

  • Length: 209 meters (686 feet)
  • Beam 47.7 meters (156 feet)
  • Draft: 13 meters (43 feet)
  • 120 MW (160,923 HP) (More than twice that of the Polar Star)
  • Power will be provided by four props on conventional shafts.

They are planning to build three. It is claimed they will be able to break ice 4.3 meters thick and be able to continuously break two meter ice while making 11 knots. They are expected to cost 70B rubles, or about $1.04B US.