Assessing Costs of Acquiring and Operating Polar Icebreakers -- New Report July 11

The U.S. has national interests in the polar regions. U.S. presence in the Arctic requires reliable year-round access in order to support economic interests, search-and-rescue needs, defense and security readiness, environmental protection, maritime mobility, and scientific research. In the Antarctic, the U.S. maintains three year-round research facilities and verifies compliance with international treaty obligations, both of which require icebreaking ability during any season.

The U.S. Coast Guard currently has three multi-mission polar icebreakers in its inventory: the Polar Star, Polar Sea and Healy. However, only the Polar Star -- built in 1976 and nearing the end of its useful life in the next three to seven years -- is capable of independently performing the annual breakout and resupply of McMurdo Station in the Antarctic.

A new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assesses whether the U.S. currently has sufficient icebreaking capability in the polar regions. It recommends design, leasing, and technology options that could minimize life-cycle costs and optimize the efficiency and reliability of U.S. Coast Guard polar icebreaker operations.


Advance copies of Acquisition and Operation of Polar Icebreakers: Fulfilling the Nation’s Needs will be available to reporters only beginning at noon EDT on Monday, July 10.  The report is embargoed and not for public release before 1 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 11.  To obtain a copy, reporters should contact the National Academies’ Office of News and Public Information; tel. 202-334-2138 or email