Emerging Policy

6/26/2017: Recap of Coast Guard remarks during Arctic Circle Forum event at Wilson Center

Submitted by Michael Emerson, director of Marine Transportation Systems (CG-5PW)

On the summer solstice, June 21, 2017, the Wilson Center convened the Arctic Circle Forum event in Washington, D.C., titled “The United States and Russia in the Arctic.”

This event assembled over 500 individuals representing commercial, environmental, indigenous, governmental, and academic interests. This unique opportunity to discuss U.S. and Russian relations in the Arctic drew international experts as well as members from the Alaska Congressional delegation and representatives from the Russian Senate and Duma.

The Honorable Ólafur Grímsson, Chairman of the Arctic Circle and former President of Iceland, provided introductory remarks and stated that the world must continue to work to establish best practices in this pristine region that will be critical to 21st century economies. President Grímsson and others applauded the U.S. and Russian Federation for working together to ensure the Arctic remains stable, peaceful and governed by commons values. For example, Russia and the U.S. recently led Arctic Counsel efforts resulting in a binding agreement to enhance scientific cooperation in the Arctic, which was signed by the eight Arctic Council nations in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Ministerial Meeting in May 2017.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft sat down with CBS National Security Correspondent David Martin to discuss security in the Arctic. Zukunft noted that increased human activity is filling the space once occupied by Arctic ice, and he applauded the work by the Arctic Coast Guard Forum, established in October 2015, to enhance maritime cooperation in the Arctic. Zukunft also highlighted an upcoming exercise in September that will take place between Greenland and Iceland to test the Arctic nations’ ability to conduct collaborative operations in challenging sea conditions.

Given this increased activity and corresponding need for Coast Guard capabilities in the high latitudes, Zukunft emphasized the importance of recapitalizing the U.S. Polar Icebreaker fleet. These special vessels are necessary to ensure the U.S. can protect sovereignty and national interests by conducting operations in the ever challenging polar environment. He reminded the audience that 40 years ago the U.S. operated seven icebreakers, whereas today we have one operational heavy icebreaker, which is over 40 years old, and one medium icebreaker now nearing its mid-life. Among Coast Guard acquisition priorities is the construction of a new heavy icebreaker by 2022, with the ultimate goal of a fleet of six new icebreakers to provide year-round access and support all U.S. missions in the Polar Regions.


This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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