Murkowski Inspects Icebreaker for First-Hand Answers on Arctic Availability

Senator: POLAR SEA Has Been a Workhorse, but Its Time Is Running Out

As the other Arctic nations – and many outside of the region – surge their investment and focus in the area, Senator Lisa Murkowski paid a visit to the United States Coast Guard Cutter POLAR SEA in Seattle to get an update on its status. With the POLAR SEA having been commissioned in 1977 and one of only two heavy-duty icebreakers in America’s fleet, Murkowski sought answers on just how much more of a contribution the USCG expects the ship to be able to make. 

“In a matter of months, the United States will take the chair of the Arctic Council, and we need to be able to demonstrate leadership in the Arctic region in word and deed; having icebreakers at the ready, and investments in more on the way, are a way we can show we’re not going to allow America to fall further behind Russia or China or India,” said Murkowski. “After seeing the POLAR SEA firsthand, I am even more concerned with the status of the U.S. icebreaking fleet. This vessel was a workhorse for decades, but is far from being returned to active duty. I really question the value of investing scarce federal resources to refurbish her when what the U.S. needs is modern technology and capabilities.”



When the POLAR SEA was threatened to be dismantled in 2012, Murkowski and a group of lawmakers put a halt to that action to not further handicap America’s marine capabilities. Earlier this year, Murkowski received a commitment from the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee Chairman that a hearing focused on Arctic investment would be held this year.