On Tuesday, President Obama proposed moving up the timetable for buying a new U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker from 2022 to 2020, according to a White House press release. He also called for planning to begin on construction of additional icebreakers to allow the U.S. more access to the Arctic.
Marine traffic to the Arctic has increased with melting sea ice, which reached a record low this February. The accelerated timeline would help the U.S. develop the capacity for year-round access to further regions of the Arctic, maintain control of shipping routes and fishing grounds, and protect pristine habitats.
The Coast Guard currently has a fleet of three active vessels, only one of which is a heavy-duty vessel. Russia, which also has claims to the Arctic, has 40 vessels, with 11 others planned or under constriction.
The release calls for Congress to provide resources to fund the construction of addition icebreakers, each of which will cost around $1 billion, according to Reuters.
“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search and rescue activities, and provide for regional peace and stability,” the release said.