Treadwell Pushes For New Icebreakers

Thursday, Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor pressed Congress for new icebreaker ships to operate in the Arctic.  Mead Treadwell testified before a Transportation subcommittee in Washington Thursday morning and said the United States also needs legal measures to protect its shores from unregulated, foreign vessels carrying hazardous cargo near Alaska’s coasts.

Treadwell warned that other nations – including places as far flung as China, are far ahead of the U.S. in recognizing the Arctic’s value.

“Northern sea routes sought for hundreds of years are now a reality. What that means is international shipping of oil and gas resources and other potentially hazardous cargos through the Bering Strait is growing rapidly as foreign shippers set their sights on Asian markets. Other Arctic and non-Arctic nations are seeing this potential but America is missing the boat,” Treadwell said.

Lieutenant Governor Treadwell pointed out that icebreakers – and the Coast Guard – could be helping Nome right now, which is cut off from fuel deliveries because of quickly forming sea ice after last month’s extreme storm.

But the country’s two heavy duty icebreakers are out of commission, leaving just one medium-duty vessel, the Healy.

Members of Congress who attended this morning’s hearing voiced support for Treadwell’s position that the U.S. should step up and get new icebreakers and create a game plan for the north.  But Alaska’s Representative Don Young admitted that not all his colleagues are on
their team.

“It is Congress’s fault.  It’s hard to get Congress to concentrate on what is necessary for the future.  They have no vision as far as the need and necessity of the Coast Guard and involvement because of the Arctic,” Young said.

Young has proposed leasing icebreakers.  Russia is building nine new icebreakers, Canada has about eight, and other Arctic nations all have more than the U.S.

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