US allocates $1bn in funds to procure first icebreaker in 25 years


US Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran has revealed that $1bn is recommended in navy shipbuilding funds to procure the first US Coast Guard-operated icebreaker in 25 years.

The funding for the Polar Icebreaker Recapitalization Project is included in the US FY2017 Defense Appropriations Bill.

Cochran said: "Our FY2017 defence funding bill makes a critical investment in the long-delayed expansion of the US icebreaker fleet.

"The US needs the capability to have year-round access to Polar regions."

"We must take assertive action to provide the vessels needed to protect American national security and economic interests in the Arctic region.

"The US needs the capability to have year-round access to Polar regions."

The funding bill is expected to allow early construction to start as proposed by US President Barack Obama last year to move the planned icebreaker construction from 2022 to 2020.

Additionally, the bill advocates actions to promote long-range cost savings.

The polar icebreakers serve a range of missions for the US Coast Guard, which includes bolstering the US defence's operational readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions; paving the way to enforce treaties and laws to protect industry and the environment and provide logistical support to facilitate scientific research, commerce, national security activities, and maritime safety.

Currently, the US operates one heavy vessel and one medium ship, one of which has been in service for 40 years.

Commissioned in 1976, the US heavy icebreaker christened Polar Star measures 399ft-long and has exceeded its 30-year service life. The second heavy icebreaker, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea has been inactive since 2011.