Trump advances icebreaker plan

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St-Laurent makes an approach to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo by Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard)
A Canadian Coast Guard ship approaches the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean in 2009. (Patrick Kelley/ Coast Guard)

President Donald Trump is calling on his administration to get a fleet of new icebreakers on the water by 2029.

A memorandum Trump signed on Tuesday advances an agenda Congress and the Coast Guard are already pursuing, to build three heavy and three light icebreakers. And it speeds up the timeline.

The memo also orders the Homeland Security Department to study the benefits of leasing an icebreaker until the new ships are built.

Alaska Congressman Don Young pressed that idea in 2016. He wanted the Coast Guard to lease an icebreaking tug from Edison Chouest, a company whose owners and employees are major donors to his re-election campaign. 

RELATED: Young promotes Chouest ship to fill ‘icebreaker gap’

The government of Finland also has icebreakers for lease.

The president’s memo raises the possibility the new ice breakers may have an Alaska homeport. It orders a study of two optimal U.S. locations.

The Coast Guard has only one heavy icebreaker in operation now, and its homeport is in Seattle.

The memo cites national security as the main reason the United States needs icebreakers. It says they should also be considered for commercial missions, including resource exploration and undersea cable maintenance.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at

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