U.S. needs to kick its new polar icebreaker construction program into gear or get caught flat-footed in the arctic race
aradoxically, shrinking polar ice caps are increasing the need for icebreakers. That’s because more merchant ships are making use of distance-saving northern sea routes through the arctic, more expedition cruise ships are venturing into the polar regions, and oil and natural gas resources that once looked inaccessible no longer do so, opening up the likelihood of confrontations in regions where there are conflicting national territorial claims.
26 Marine Log // January 2018
The result is that the new cold war centers around an icebreaker construction arms race—one in which the United States is hopelessly playing catch up. Russia has clear dominance with the world’s largest icebreaker fleet — 46 in service, 11 under construction and at least four others planned. The U.S.’s friendly neighbor to the north, Canada, has seven, with two under construction and five planned. Finland, which is home to Aker Arctic, which specializes in ice technology, has 10. Aker
Arctic has designed icebreakers for Russia, Canada, and China. Additionally, Sweden, has a fleet of seven, with three more planned. Coming in at number five in the league table for icebreakers is the U.S., with five ships and, potentially three planned. Worryingly to some, China has three icebreakers (two of which were delivered in 2016) and another under construction. The U.S. has not built a heavy icebreaker in 40 years. The Coast Guard’s tally of five U.S. icebreakers consists of:
US Coast Guard
By Nick Blenkey