Coast Guard Awards Icebreaker Studies

By Vivienne Machi
The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star

The U.S. Coast Guard recently awarded five firm fixed-price contracts for heavy polar icebreaker design studies and analysis, according to the service.

The contracts will support early industry research in support of the acquisition of a new heavy polar icebreaker with a total award value of approximately $20 million, according to a Coast Guard press release. They were awarded to Bollinger Shipyards, Fincantieri Marine Group, General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, Huntington Ingalls Inc. and VT Halter Marine Inc.

“These studies will help identify solutions to minimize cost, schedule and technology risk,” said Colleen Rourke, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman.

The research is expected to take 12 months to complete. The heavy polar icebreaker integrated program office, staffed by Coast Guard and Navy personnel, plans to release a draft request for proposals for detail design and construction by the end of fiscal year 2017, with a final RFP expected in fiscal year 2018. 

The office plans to award a single contract for design and construction of the lead heavy polar icebreaker in fiscal year 2019, according to the Coast Guard.

A recent report by the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, an Alexandria, Virginia-based non-profit organization, called for more icebreaker procurement as the U.S. military continues to operate in the Arctic region.

The report said additional icebreakers were critical “to keep pace with Russia, which has taken a commanding position in the Arctic by investing billions of dollars on infrastructure, including a large fleet of at least 40 icebreakers.” 

The Coast Guard currently operates two icebreakers in its Arctic fleet, and last year began an effort to procure a third vessel, at an estimated cost of $1 billion. The service has previously acknowledged the need for a minimum of two additional heavy icebreakers to address changing conditions in the region, including thinning ice, increased global interest, military activity and a Russian fleet build-up, according to the report. 

The United States will need eight icebreakers to have a full-time presence year-round in the region, said retired Adm. Robert Papp, who served as Coast Guard commandant and as the State Department’s special representative for the Arctic.

However, “Congress has not authorized funding for a single icebreaker, much less three,” AII’s report said. “Even if the funding were authorized, the Coast Guard would still be three icebreakers and $3 billion short.”

President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget guidance proposes $1.3 billion in cuts to the Coast Guard, which could target the service’s acquisition priorities, including future icebreaker procurement.


Topics: Maritime Security, Homeland Security

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