The first ship in the US Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter program will be named Polar Sentinel. Commandant Karl Schultz made the announcement in his “State of the Coast Guard 2022” address in Clearwater, Florida last month.
The Polar Security Cutter program is to replace the 46-year-old heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star and the 23-year-old icebreaker USCGC Healy.
Shipbuilder VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Mississippi, has been awarded the contract to build the first two Polar Security Cutters, and the Coast Guard has an option for a third vessel.
“Detail design work remains underway in preparation for construction of our first Polar Security Cutter,” Admiral Schultz said in his address on 24 February. According to the Coast Guard website, construction of the first icebreaker is scheduled to begin this year.
Admiral Schultz called the Polar Security Cutter “a state-of-the-art ship, that requires exacting designs, complex steel work and systems integration”.
The start of construction of Polar Sentinel has been plagued by delays so far, delaying delivery until at least May 2025. “We haven’t built a heavy icebreaker in a long time but we’re guardedly optimistic we’ll meet that timeline,” Admiral Schultz said.
Meanwhile, VT Halter Marine is preparing for the construction of the new ship. It has partnered with Technology Associates, Inc. to design the new vessels.
Three new icebreakers for the Coast Guard
On April 23, 2019, VT Halter Marine was awarded a $745.9 million (€682 million) contract for the detailed design and construction of the first icebreaker. The contract also included options for the construction of two additional icebreakers, which would not exceed a total cost of $1.9 billion if additional orders were placed.
On December 30 of last year, the Coast Guard redeemed the $552.6 million option to build the second icebreaker. The commissioned vessels will be the largest icebreakers ever ordered by the Coast Guard.
Originally, VT Halter Marine anticipated that Polar Sentinel would be delivered in the summer of 2024, the second icebreaker in 2025 and the third in late 2027.
Each 140-meter (460-foot) long and 27-meter (88-foot) wide icebreaker will be designated Polar Class 2, signifying they are capable of year-round operations in multi-year ice. A diesel-electric propulsion system with a power output of 45,200 hp will help ensure that the vessels are capable of breaking ice with a thickness of 1.8 to 2.4 meters. The icebreakers will each accommodate 186 crewmembers comfortably and be able to operate autonomously for 90 days.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal