Murkowski Introduces Bills to Build Two New Polar Icebreakers and Improve Arctic Navigation and Shipping Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced a pair of bills designed to fund construction of two new Polar class icebreakers and improve mapping, navigation and maritime infrastructure in the Arctic.
One of the bills – to amend the Hydrographic Services Improvement Act – would authorize money to get data and services to the Arctic for safe navigation, delineate the U.S. extended continental shelf and monitor coastal changes.
The bill would authorize $10 million a year for 2011 and 2012 for the navigation improvement work and $5 million per year for the extended continental shelf mapping.
“We continue to see a loss of summer sea ice and the United States must prepare for an ice-diminished Arctic,” Murkowski said. “As access to Arctic waters increases, we will inevitably see increased maritime activity. One of the first steps is to determine what infrastructure is required and coordinate that with the other Arctic nations.  Then we must make the necessary infrastructure investments that will allow us to be more prepared for an increase in human activity in the region.”
The second bill, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment Implementation Act of 2009, would direct the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to work with the International Maritime Organization to establish agreements among the U.S., Russia, Canada and other Arctic nations to coordinate shipping infrastructure. The agreements would include aids to navigation, icebreaking escort, tug and salvage, oil spill prevention and response, maritime domain awareness and vessel tracking, and search and rescue.
The bill would authorize $750 million for 2011 and 2012 for the construction of two polar capable icebreakers; $5 million for each year, 2012-2015, for seasonal operations in the Arctic and $10 million for each of those same years, 2012-2015, to conduct demonstration projects to reduce emissions or discharges from vessels operating in the Arctic.
“While I have helped secure funding to refurbish the second Polar Class icebreaker, the service life extension is only a short term fix,” Murkowski said. “We must begin the process to build new modern heavy icebreakers and this legislation authorizes the construction of two replacement vessels.  As activity in the Arctic increases, the United States must have a maritime presence in the Arctic to ensure safety and security in the region.”
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has introduced companion bills in the House of Representatives.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed a $42.9 billion Department of Homeland Security spending measure that includes $32.5 million to enhance United States’ polar icebreaker capability. The icebreaker funding, which was included at Murkowski’s request, would go to finish the reactivation of the Polar Star, which is coming out of caretaker status. At present, the only working heavy icebreaker, the Polar Sea, has seven years remaining on its service life.