Friday, December 16, 2016

Ice-busting Ship Preps for Trip Amid Push to Replace Fleet |

Ice-busting Ship Preps for Trip Amid Push to Replace Fleet |

The only U.S. ship capable of breaking through Antarctica's thick ice is getting scrubbed down, fixed up and loaded with goods in balmy Hawaii this week as it prepares to head to the frigid south.

The voyage by Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star comes as the U.S. looks to replace and expand its aging fleet of polar icebreakers so it can maintain a presence in the most remote corners of the world. The demand for icebreaking ships is expected to grow as climate change melts sea ice and lures more traffic to northern Arctic waters.

"The specter in the future is more marine use in the Arctic, more shipping, more offshore development, more tourism," said Lawson Brigham, a professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Coast Guard needs to be able to enforce U.S. laws as well as search for and rescue people in the Arctic like it does in other waters, Brigham said. Though sea ice is melting faster than before, the Arctic Ocean is fully or partially covered by ice for about three-quarters of the year.

The Seattle-based ship has stopped in Pearl Harbor to stock up on food and fuel. It was scheduled to leave Monday to carve a channel through 30 miles of ice in Antarctica so ships can resupply a U.S. research center, but it was delayed by last-minute repairs.