Washington, D.C.- The National Science Board utilizes Icebreakers in the Antarctic for the National Science Foundation, and for its scientific and environmental needs. Recently in a December 9th presentation, they recommended that they take a position of chartering Swedish or Russian vessels, rather than using the US Coast Guard Polar Class ships, the Polar Sea and the Polar Star.
While this would perhaps save money and be more energy efficient, it is a blow to the US Coast Guard Polar class of ships. These ships have 1970s vintage combined Diesel and gasoline powered systems, and these are in many ways less efficient than the newer, more modern ships that are owned by Sweden and Russia. These ships from other nations require less fuel than the US Coast Guard ships, but the Coast Guard has kept these vessels available for use by the NSF and other civilian scientific groups.
With the issues of global warming, the need for more icebreaking will rise and continue to be a vibrant need. The Coast Guard has had its ability to fund and operate its Polar Class ships interrupted by the bureaucracy of the scientific funding. The Polar Sea is operational, but the Polar Star has been in reserve status since the year 2006.
The US Congress has given enough money to keep the Polar Star in reserve, but not enough to bring it to full operation again. This is frustrating for the Coast Guard, who with the Polar Class of ships pioneered much of what is now accepted as modern Icebreaking theory and practice.