Alaska’s Congressional delegation says they have obtained $125 million in Coast Guard funding to purchase a commercial icebreaker to be homeported in Juneau.

Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both R-Alaska, and Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, did not name the vessel, but the top contender has been Aiviq, an Edison Chouest anchor handling supply tug.

“The inclusion of funding for the first icebreaker in a generation is significant progress for our state and our country’s national security,” Sullivan said in a joint statement with his colleagues. “I recently got the Commandant of the Coast Guard to recommit to me that this icebreaker will be homeported in Alaska. Our national security interests in the Arctic have never been more critical.”

Advocates for the purchase portray the Aiviq as a wise hedge against any delays in the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter program.

“Through the purchase of this commercially available icebreaker and by protecting against further cuts to the PSC Program, our icebreaker fleet is back on the right track,” said Murkowski.

Best known for its role in Royal Dutch Shell’s ill-fated Arctic drilling attempts, the 360’8”x80’x34’ Aiviq was built expressly for that venture by North American Shipbuilding, Larose, La., and delivered in March 2012.

In July 2016, the late Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, called for the Coast Guard to consider leasing the Aiviq as a fallback for icebreaking duties — insurance against a major casualty with the Polar Star, the remaining 41-year-old 399’ heavy icebreaker, or the 420’ Healy medium icebreaker launched in 1997.

“Every Alaskan knows that our state makes the United States an Arctic nation, and that Arctic issues are Alaskan issues,” said Peltola, who now holds Young’s longtime seat in the House of Representatives. “It’s never been more essential for the United States to be a leader in the Arctic, and this is a major step in that direction.”

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