The U.S. Coast Guard took an important step on 23 April toward revitalizing its polar capabilities with the award of a $746 million contract for the design and construction of its first polar security cutter (PSC). As many as six of the new heavy icebreakers are planned for service in the Arctic and Antarctic, with construction set to begin in 2021. Delivery of the first hull is expected in 2024. The contract with VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Mississippi, includes options for the second and third hulls of the class. If the options are exercised, these hulls would be scheduled for delivery in the mid- to late 2020s. Each PSC will displace 33,000 tons and will have a 460-foot length and an 88-foot beam. The U.S. Coast Guard’s operational fleet currently includes only one heavy polar icebreaker—the 13,000-ton Polar Star (WAGB-10), commissioned in 1976. Sister cutter Polar Sea (WAGB-11) has remained in inactive commission following an engine casualty in 2010.
By Eric Wertheim