ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – For buying a new heavy icebreaker for the U.S. Arctic, on Tuesday President Barack Obama will propose a faster timetable as quickly melting sea ice has spurred more maritime traffic and United States has fallen far behind Russian resources.
As the nation prepares for more shipping, drilling and mining in the region, it’s a move that Arctic advocates urged long inside and outside the administration.
Each vessels are valued at about $1 billion. It would need to agree to be paid by U.S. Congress for the expansion.
A year when routine Arctic marine transit is expected, Obama will say that a heavy icebreaker should be bought by the government by 2020, instead of the previous goal of 2022.
He also will be proposing to start planning for the additional icebreakers. For safety in the changing Arctic and to keep up with Russia, this move is required, The White House said
It also added, “The U.S. Coast Guard used to have seven icebreakers, but the fleet has dwindled to three creaky vessels, only one of which is a heavy-duty vessel. Russia, on the other hand, has 40 icebreakers and another 11 planned or under construction”.
During the past year, from new drilling, Obama has taken steps to seal off parts of Alaska.
Outdated maps for regions with newly open waters will also be updated by Obama’s administration and survey a transit route through the Aleutians and Bering Strait, the White House said.
Obama will be spending his Alaska tour second day in the picturesque coastal town of Seward, which is named after President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward, who in 1867 negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.
On Monday, in an address urging the world to agree later this year to new targets for cutting carbon emissions, Obama said,”Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now”.
In an interview, Seward Mayor Jean Bardarson said, “We get to showcase our piece of paradise to the president of the United States, and that means a lot to us as it would any town,”