Alaska Dispatch: Polar Sea engine trouble sparks Murkowski call for more icebreakers

The Coast Guard is drydocking the Polar Sea icebreaker and cancelling the 2010 Arctic patrol.

The icebreaker could be laid up until at least January, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowsi, R-Alaska.

That's prompted Murkowski to renew her call for more icebreakers. She has introduced legislation to pay for two new Polar class icebreakers, so-called "heavy" icebreakers that are designed to work in severe ice conditions.

A press release from Murkowski's office Friday morning says a recent Coast Guard inspection found excessive wear in the Polar Sea's main diesel engine. An analysis of why the wear occurred is underway and expected to be done by mid-August, the press release says.

If additional repairs are required, the ship could be out of commission beyond January.

"On a national level, this eliminates the nation's only heavy icebreaking capability and seriously imperils our ability to respond to emergencies in ice-covered and ice-diminished waters," Murkowski said in a prepared statement. "This could clearly impact our ability to preserve and protect U.S. interests in the Arctic."

The Polar Sea is one of two Polar-class heavy icebreakers. It's sister ship, the Polar Star, is undergoing extensive repairs and unavailable until 2013, Murkowski's office said.

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