The Navy, in collaboration with the Coast Guard, released a request for proposal (RFP) on March 2 for the advance procurement and detail design for the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker. The RFP includes options for the detail design and construction for up to three heavy polar icebreakers.
The contracting agency for the project is the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Coast Guard says it needs at least three new heavy icebreakers to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the nation's economic, commercial, maritime and national security needs.
The current operational polar icebreaking fleet includes one 399-foot heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, and one 420-foot medium icebreaker, the Healy, commissioned in 2000. These two cutters are designed for open-water icebreaking and feature reinforced hulls and specially angled bows.
Polar Star underwent a three-year reactivation and returned to operations in late 2013. Since then, it has completed three Operation Deep Freeze deployments to resupply the McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The Coast Guard expects the Polar Star to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023.
The Coast Guard also has a second heavy icebreaker, the Polar Sea, which was placed inactive status in 2011. The Coast Guard is evaluating options to reactivate the ship. Parts from the ship were used to reactivate the Polar Star.