Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said the service will award the construction contract this spring for the first new heavy icebreaker in more than 40 years.

The Coast Guard eventually plans to acquire at least three Polar Security Cutters (PSC) as part of its requirement for six new icebreakers to operate in the polar regions. The other ships would be medium icebreakers.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz. Photo: Coast Guard

The Coast Guard currently has one heavy icebreaker, the 43-year old Polar Star, which is in frequent need of repairs and will soon undergo a service life extension program to keep it operating into the mid-2020 when a second PSC is delivered.

Five contractors–Bollinger Shipyards, General Dynamics [GD], a U.S. division of Italy’s Fincantieri, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], and VT Halter Marine, which is the U.S.-based shipbuilding division of Singapore’s ST Engineering–completed design studies for the PSC and have submitted bids to complete the design and construct the vessels.

Congress in fiscal year 2019 appropriated $675 million to round out the funds to acquire the first PSC and purchase long-lead time materials for the second ship. Congress previously appropriated $300 million within the Navy’s shipbuilding account for the icebreaker program. The Coast Guard and Navy have an integrated program office that is managing the program.

Delivery of the lead PSC is planned for 2023.

Schultz, speaking Thursday at the annual State of the Coast Guard address, said the Coast Guard’s top two acquisition priorities are the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and the PSC. The service plans to buy 25 OPCs, which are under contract to Eastern Shipbuilding.

The Coast Guard has one medium icebreaker, the Healy.