The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(JUNEAU, Alaska) — The U.S. Coast Guard announced Friday unexpected engine casualties aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea, one of the serviceâ€™s two large polar icebreakers, will eliminate their fall patrol providing Arctic support to Alaska this year.
The Polar Sea was scheduled to support operations in the Arctic as well as Arctic Crossroads 2010 operations in August but will likely be in a maintenance status and unavailable for operations until at least January 2011.
“It is disappointing the Polar Sea will be unable to support Coast Guard Arctic tasking this summer,” said Rear Adm. Christopher Colvin, commander of the 17th Coast Guard District. “Arctic Crossroads is an important Coast Guard operation demonstrating presence and enforcement of sovereign rights in the U.S. Arctic maritime. Additionally Polar Sea was to provide critical search and rescue standby during a period of increased human activity in the U.S. Coast Guard’s search and rescue coordination area of the Arctic Ocean.”
Polar Sea was also preparing to conduct oil spill recovery exercises and extending community outreach activities to rural Alaskans Natives in the high latitudes.
The Polar Sea last patrolled Alaskan waters in February during a two-month deployment in support of Bering Sea Ecosystem Study. The BEST spring scientific cruise is part of a six-year study of the Bering Sea ecosystem supported by the National Science Foundation and the North Pacific Research Board centrally focused on examining the impacts of changing ice conditions on food web structure.
The Coast Guardâ€™s other large polar icebreaker, the Polar Star is in the process of being reactivated for service, but will not be ready until 2013. The Coast Guard Cutter Healy, with lesser icebreaking capabilities than the polars, remains operational and is currently conducting global warming research for NASA in the arctic.
Inspections of the Polar Seaâ€™s main diesel engines revealed premature excessive wear in 33 cylinder assemblies. A root cause failure analysis to determine the underlying cause of the excessive wear is underway and expected to be complete in August.
The Polar Sea was commissioned into service on Feb. 23, 1978, and has exceeded its intended 30-year life; in 2006 the Coast Guard completed a rehabilitation project that extended its service life to 2014. The Polar Star was placed in a caretaker status in 2006 and is currently completing a seven to 10 year, service life, extension project that is expected to return it to an operational status in early 2013.