Murkowski Calls for Beefed Up Polar Icebreaker Capability

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called for a ramping up of America’s polar icebreaker capability, saying a “global chess game” is currently playing out in the Arctic but the United States is playing “with a serious shortage of pieces.”
“At present the Russians have 18 icebreakers, and planning on building three more, Finland has seven and Canada six,” Alaska’s senior senator said. “The United States has two working icebreakers and a third in caretaker status. Even China, which doesn’t have any Arctic waters, has one. I would encourage the Committee to strongly support increasing the U.S. icebreaker fleet and replacing the two aging Polar Class vessels.”
Murkowski was speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held a roundtable discussion on the global implications of a warming Arctic.
“The Arctic is unquestionably unique and the projections of an ice-diminished Arctic have profound implications for this region, its ecology, environment and people,” said Murkowski, the Senate leader on Arctic policy issues. “How we address and adapt to these changes is truly the challenge and opportunity that lies ahead.”
As a result of diminished ice in the Arctic, maritime activities relating to shipments of goods, oil and gas, tourism and research will increase as access to the Arctic Ocean increases, she said.
“While there are many issues of priority in the Arctic, the one in which I believe the committee should prioritize first is ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Murkowski said. “I suggest that the Committee expeditiously hold a hearing to frame the issue, inform new committee members and allow them to see the broad support for ratification.”
Murkowski called on the Committee to engage the White House and urge the Obama administration to “strongly support” law of the sea ratification.
Finally, Murkowski urged her Senate colleagues to study the recently released Presidential Directive on Arctic Region Policy. The directive, the first Arctic policy update since 1994, acknowledges the United States as an Arctic nation and recognizes that recent developments in the Arctic, primarily due to the impact of climate change and the reduction in summer sea ice, are happening at a rapid rate in the region.
“I encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the policy and to support the implementation,” she said.