Cantwell Helps Secure Seattle as Homeport for Newest Polar Icebreakers

June 17, 2019

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded today’s announcement from the U.S. Coast Guard that Seattle will be the homeport for three new Coast Guard polar security cutters, also known as polar icebreakers. Securing funding for new icebreakers and expanding U.S. leadership in the Arctic has long been a legislative priority for Cantwell.

“This is great news. Homeporting new icebreakers in Puget Sound shows the significant role Washington state has to play in securing our waters and protecting our environment in the Arctic. The Puget Sound region supports a cutting-edge maritime workforce, which is poised to meet the needs of these new world-class vessels,” said Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard. “I am excited to welcome new polar icebreakers and their Coast Guard crews to Seattle in the near future.”

Cantwell has been a leading voice to expand the United States’ icebreaker fleet. In 2006, Cantwell secured legislation requiring the Coast Guard to develop a long-term plan for maintaining and upgrading the icebreaker fleet. In 2016, Cantwell successfully persuaded the Obama administration to include new icebreaker funding in its FY 2017 budget request.

This year, Cantwell also helped secure $655 million to design and build the first Coast Guard polar icebreaker in more than four decades, as well as $20 million to begin planning a second icebreaker. In the most recent Coast Guard reauthorization, Cantwell also secured funds to recapitalize the Seattle-based Polar Star icebreaker.

“I am pleased to announce that Seattle, Washington will be the home of the Coast Guard’s new Polar Security Cutters,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.  “The Pacific Northwest has been the home of our icebreaking fleet since 1976, and I am confident that the Seattle area will continue to provide the support we need to carry out our critical operations in the polar regions.”

Background from U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency responsible for providing assured surface access in the polar regions.  The addition of the Polar Security Cutters in Seattle will support the United States’ ability to conduct national missions, respond to critical events, and project American presence in the high latitudes.

The Coast Guard conducted a detailed analysis to identify locations that could accommodate the Polar Security Cutter. Based on operational and logistical needs, Seattle was determined to be the appropriate homeport for the first three Polar Security Cutters.