Shipbuilders Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics NASSCO have both expressed interest in building new icebreakers for the Coast Guard, Reuters is reporting.
While visiting Alaska on Tuesday, President Obama called for accelerating the planning and construction of a new icebreaker fleet to solidify the Coast Guard’s Arctic capabilities.
The medium icebreaker Healy, the newest vessel in the U.S. fleet, was built by Huntington Ingalls and delivered in 1999.
Huntington Ingalls spokesman Bill Glenn told Reuters that the company had responded to a request for information from the Coast Guard on icebreaker design and construction earlier this year.
"HII has the capability and capacity to build both heavy and medium icebreakers and welcomes the opportunity to expand discussion on that subject with the U.S. Coast Guard or other government agencies supporting an icebreaker requirement," Glenn said.
Reuters reported that General Dynamics NASSCO also voiced interest in the project.
Funding for icebreakers remains the central issue, but in recent months lawmakers from both parties have put out legislation that would set up funds for expanding the icebreaker fleet. An independent study by the General Accountability Office this year reported the Coast Guard needs at least three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fulfill anticipated mission needs in the Arctic and waters around Antarctica.
"The president's announcement demonstrates that the United States is an Arctic nation and affirms the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured access to the Polar Regions," U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said in a statement Wednesday. "We look forward to working with the administration, Congress and the many other Arctic stakeholders to ensure these platforms meet our national security objectives well into the 21st century.”