- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The nation’s sole heavy icebreaker is heading to the Arctic as a result of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a 75,000-horsepower icebreaker, had been scheduled to bring fresh supplies to scientific researchers at McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic but the mission was scrubbed because of COVID-19. Instead, they will be resupplied by air, officials said.

That left the icebreaker available for a three month deployment to the far north.

Coast Guard officials said the Polar Star will help the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security in the region. In 2019, the Coast Guard released their Arctic Strategic Outlook which “reaffirms the service’s commitment to American leadership in the region.”

“The Arctic is no longer an emerging frontier, but is instead a region of growing national importance,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan. the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area commander. “The Coast Guard is committed to protecting U.S. sovereignty and working with our partners to uphold a safe, secure and rules-based Arctic.”

In August 2020, a fire broke out in the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the only other icebreaker in the fleet, which it was on an Arctic mission off the coast of Alaska. The damage resulted in the deployment being canceled and the cutter returning to its home port in Seattle where it current remains in dry dock.

While air resupply will suffice in the short term, Coast Guard officials said they expect to resume the Operation Deep Freeze icebreaker mission to the Antarctic next year.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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