Murkowski: Our Icebreaking Capacity as an Arctic Nation Just Simply is Unacceptable

Russia 33, United States 1

Murkowski: “Our Icebreaking Capacity as an Arctic Nation Just Simply is Unacceptable” 

Washington, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski today highlighted America’s shortfall of icebreakers in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing – in a question to United States Coast Guard Vice Admiral Brian Salerno.  “The current status of our icebreaking capacity as an Arctic Nation just simply is unacceptable,” Murkowski stressed. “I think those in the Coast Guard, whose responsibility is oversight of those waters, would agree."

Senator Murkowski asked the Vice Admiral about the comparative fleets of nearby Russia and Canada.  He testified that Russia has 8 heavy icebreakers, 12 medium and 13 light, for a total of 33.  Canada has 2 medium icebreakers and 4 light ones – for a total of 6. “We have one operating icebreaker,” said Salerno, “which is a medium icebreaker, the Coast Guard Cutter Healy.”

“We have two heavy ice breakers,” he continued, “the Polar Sea and Polar Star. The Polar Sea is about to be placed in inactive status; the Polar Star is being refurbished and we expect to have her operational in 2013.”  He added that even with the repairs, the Polar Star will only have 7-10 years of service.

Senator Murkowski and Vice Admiral Salerno both agreed on the need for a future vision and commitment, given the increased activity levels in Arctic Waters.