A fire outbreak in one of the main propulsion motors of the US Coast Guard’s largest icebreaker, the USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), has forced the ship to return to its homeport for inspection and repairs.
No one was injured in the fire on August 18, which broke out when the Healy was 60 nautical miles off of Seward, Alaska, en route to the Arctic.
The US Coast Guard said the cause of the fire is currently unknown.
The propulsion motors are critical equipment that use the power generated by the ship’s main diesel engines to spin the shaft and propeller. This design protects the engines from variations in shaft speeds inherent to ice operations.
Due to the fire, Healy’s starboard propulsion motor and shaft are no longer operational, and the ship is transiting back to its homeport in Seattle for further inspection and repairs.
Prior to the fire, the Healy completed a 26-day patrol in support of operation Arctic Shield, demonstrating US presence and influence in the Bering Sea, along the US-Russian Maritime Boundary Line, and in the Arctic.
“I commend the crew of the Healy for their quick actions to safely combat the fire,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Pacific Area commander. “This casualty, however, means that the United States is limited in icebreaking capability until the Healy can be repaired, and it highlights the nation’s critical need for Polar Security Cutters.”
In April 2019, the Navy and Coast Guard awarded a contract to VT Halter Marine, of Pascagoula, Mississippi, for the detail design and construction of the Polar Security Cutter. The initial award includes non-recurring engineering, detail design and construction of the first Polar Security Cutter and has options for the construction of two additional hulls. Construction of the first Polar Security Cutter is scheduled to begin in early 2021 with delivery in 2024.