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44-year-old heavy icebreaker arrives in Dutch Harbor

Patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas
Patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas(Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham, US Coast Guard Pacific Area)
Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:07 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The nation’s sole heavy icebreaker, a 44-year-old ship, arrived in Dutch Harbor on Tuesday. This is the ship’s first visit to the area since 2013.

The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas to help protect national security throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, according to a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska. This includes patrolling the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia.

“We’re up here defending U.S. sovereign rights, we are ensuring that no other country or no other individuals are infringing on U.S. resources in the exclusive economic zone, and we’re sending a message to the world, that the United States is an arctic nation and that we are invested in the arctic domain and that we will defend it,” said Captain Bill Woityra, U.S. Coast Guard, Command Officer, in a prepared statement.

According to the release, the Polar Star traveled farther north than any U.S. surface ship in history during the first leg of the mission. The Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude reached 72° 11′ N on Dec. 25.

The Polar Star will depart Dutch Harbor on Thursday and head into the Arctic while crew members will be working on mastering icebreaking skills, conducting scientific research and patrolling to uncover illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, according to the release.

Woityra said the Polar Star weighs 13,600 tons and is 399 feet long. The vessel can cut through six feet of ice with no problem. By using the backing and ramming technique the vessel can cut through around 21 feet of ice. With the vessel’s six diesel engines it can generate up to 75,000 horsepower that gets them through the ice.

Patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas
Patrolling the Bering and Chukchi Seas(Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham, US Coast Guard Pacific Area)

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