New icebreaker being built to patrol Alaskan waters
The spending bill passed by the United States Congress earlier this month to avoid another partial government shutdown includes USD 655 million (EUR 576 million) to build the country's first polar icebreaker in a decade, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The bill also provides funding for four new Coast Guard cutters in Alaska, and USD 20 million (EUR 17.5 million) which will go towards building materials for a second icebreaker, according to U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Two of the ships will be stationed in Kodiak, while one will be stationed in Seward and the other in Sitka.
Seward Mayor David Squires said that he welcomed the increase in Coast Guard personnel in his town, but added, “Personally, I’d like to see two new ones here, but I’m not the one who makes those decisions.”
Local Alaskan politicians said that the boats are a welcome addition which will increase marine safety and fishery enforcement.
“The more Coast Guard the better, especially because of the distances and the weather in Alaska,” said Derrik Magnuson, who was formerly the chief of port services for the Coast Guard in Kodiak and now serves as Kodiak’s harbormaster. “It can be pretty gnarly out there.”
New icebreakers will compete with Russia’s fleet of 40, "Some of which are nuclear-powered, some which are weaponized,” Sullivan said.
The United States is planning to send large Navy ships “up and over the pole” to defend American sovereignty in the Arctic, so the icebreakers are especially needed.
“With this appropriation, Congress and the Trump administration are acknowledging that Alaska is America’s Arctic, a fact that is important to our broader national security interests," Sullivan said. “I was glad to have the opportunity to use my leadership role on the Commerce and Armed Services Committees, in conjunction with [U.S.] Senator Murkowski’s work on the Appropriations Committee, to secure America’s first new polar icebreaker in a generation and the needs of the Coast Guard in Alaska.”