WASHINGTON, D.C. – Prompted by reports of three vessels becoming stuck in ice off Alaska’s northern coast this week, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the Bush administration to issue its long-awaited Arctic Policy update and reiterated her call for construction of more U.S. icebreakers.


“The recent incident north of Barrow, Alaska, where three vessels were stuck in the Arctic ice, highlights two crucial issues: First, there is more activity in the Arctic and this will only increase as sea ice diminishes and marine traffic increases; and second, with high energy prices and the large known energy reserves, the Arctic is becoming increasingly desirable as a place to explore for oil, gas and minerals.


“We were fortunate that the vessels were able to free themselves and that the U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy was only 400 miles away.  While the Healy happened to be in the area, the reality is that we do not have the icebreaking capability that America needs to respond to incidents like this. 


“I strongly agree with Admiral Thad Allen, commandant of the Coast Guard, that ‘we are watching our ice-breaking capabilities decline and we are losing ground in the global competition.’  I am extremely concerned that if we don’t start planning immediately to build new icebreakers, we will fall even further behind the other Arctic nations and be unable to provide the safety and security that the changing Arctic marine environment will require.


“I urge the White House to release its long-awaited Arctic Policy directive. While the administration appears to support an increased icebreaker capability, I call on the White House to fund a new icebreaker construction initiative.”