U.S. Coast Guard Releases RFI for Service Life Extension Project of its Heavy Icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star

The U.S. Coast Guard has released a request for information (RFI), on July 18, to gather market research for the service life extension project (SLEP) of its heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) as part of the In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program (ISVS).

The SLEP effort will recapitalize a number of major systems – including machinery control and propulsion power distribution systems – and extend the service life of the cutter by four years. The work will include a six-month long lead time material procurement and detailed design phase, followed by a minimum of three annual repair execution phases between 2021 and 2024.

Polar Star, the Coast Guard’s only active heavy icebreaker, was commissioned in 1976. The 399-foot ship is currently responsible for nine of the 11 Coast Guard statutory missions. Each winter, the cutter travels to McMurdo Station in Antarctica as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which supports the National Science Foundation (NSF)-managed U.S. Antarctic Program.

“The SLEP for Polar Star is essential to maintain year-round access to the polar regions until new heavy polar icebreakers are delivered,” said Ken King, program manager for the ISVS program. “The challenge for this program will be to balance phased SLEP work with continued Polar Star operational deployments.”

The deadline to submit responses for the RFI is Aug. 3, 2018 at 4 p.m. EDT.

USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10)

USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) is a Polar-class heavy icebreaker of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Polar Star is one of the largest ships in the Coast Guard and one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear ships. Commissioned in 1976, the ship was built by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, Washington along with her sister ship, USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11).

USCGC Polar Star is 399-feet long, 13,500 tons, 84-feet wide, has a 34-foot draft (the same as an aircraft carrier), 75,000 horse power and nine engines (six diesels, three jet-turbines).

Homeported in Seattle, Polar Star operates under the control of Pacific Area and coordinates its operations through the Ice Operations Section of the USCG. USCGC Polar Star carries approximately 150 crewmembers, 1.5 million gallons of fuel and enough food stores to last one year in the ice should it be necessary. The ship can break continuously through six feet of ice and up to 21 feet of ice by backing and ramming.

Polar Star has a variety of missions while operating in polar regions. During Antarctic deployments, the primary missions include breaking a channel through the sea ice to resupply the McMurdo Research Station in the Ross Sea. .

In addition to these duties, Polar Star also serves as a scientific research platform with five laboratories and accommodations for up to 20 scientists. The “J”-shaped cranes and work areas near the stern and port side of ship give scientists the capability to do at-sea studies in the fields of geology, volcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics, and other disciplines.

The 41-year-old cutter is expected to reach the end of its extended service life by 2023.

After her sister ship USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11) was deactivated in 2010, Polar Star became the U.S.’s only heavy icebreaker, the Coast Guard’s other icebreaker, USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), is classified as a medium icebreaker.

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