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USCG Healy Starts Annual Deployment to the Arctic

Healy icebreaker
Healy departing Seattle on July 11 for her multi-month deployment to the Arctic (USCG)

Published Jul 14, 2023 6:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy embarked this week on her annual mission to the Arctic. Departing from Seattle, Washington on July 11, she will be deployed to the Arctic for the next few months to support multiple science missions. It is also a critical training program for the U.S. Coast Guard in endurance and hard conditions preparing for future operations in the Arctic.

The Healy, which is the U.S.’s sole medium icebreaker, is typically tasked with operations in the Arctic. The U.S. Coast Guard highlights that her missions enhance maritime domain awareness, strengthen partnerships, and build preparedness, prevention, and response capabilities across the Arctic domain. During her mission in 2022, she sailed unaccompanied to the North Pole. It was only the second time a U.S. vessel had made the journey, with the Healy also conducting the prior visit in 2015.

“We’re excited to begin our Arctic deployment to the high latitudes,” said Capt. Michele Schallip, who assumed command of the Healy in June, having previously served as the cutter’s executive officer. “Our deployment will support scientific exploration to increase understanding of the changing Arctic environment and associated impacts.”

Last year during her deployment to the Arctic, the Healy first made a port call in Seward, Alaska, before traveling into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. In September and October, after a port visit to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Healy transited north for the bulk of her research. She reached the North Pole at the beginning of October and returned to Dutch Harbor at the end of October to disembark her science personnel before a final port call in Juneau, Alaska. She then made her way through the inside passage arriving back in Seattle on November 11. The deployment lasted 124 days and traveled 17,000 nautical miles.

This year the crew of Healy will again provide a U.S. surface presence in the Arctic, conducting high latitude science and research missions, and engaging in exercises and professional exchanges with foreign partners. Her commanders highlight the mission will provide opportunities to deepen the Coast Guard’s cooperation with allies, and partner nations through engagements and joint exercises.

Commissioned in 2000, the 420-foot icebreaker is one of two active polar icebreakers in the Coast Guard’s fleet. The Healy went through an extensive reconstruction in 2020 after an engine fire disabled the ship and threatened her future. The U.S. Coast Guard re-engined the ship and she returned to active duty in 2021. 

The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is the Cost Guard’s only current Polar icebreaker. She was commissioned in 1976. Efforts are underway to build her replacement now not expected until at least 2025.