U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that Todd Shipyards, a Seattle-based company, has been awarded a five-year $29m contract to retrofit the United States Coast Guard’s Polar Class icebreaker, Polar Star. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray helped secure $30.3m in the FY2009 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to re-activate the USCGC Polar Star, which is currently in caretaker status.
“This contract is a shot in the arm for our maritime industry at a critical time,” said Senator Murray. “It will allow us to move forward with a project in our nation’s interest while supporting good-paying, high-skilled jobs in our region.”
According to Todd Pacific Shipyards' CEO, Steve Welch, the contract will mean sustaining or creating more than 250 jobs in the Puget Sound region. "This news couldn't have come at a better time," Welch said. "There are a lot of folks struggling in this economy and ship repair work has an immediate impact on the economy – putting suppliers to work, as well as our own people."
This five-year contract will support 175 employees directly employed by Todd Shipyards and an additional 85 subcontractor employees throughout the Puget Sound. It helps maintain the health of the maritime industry in the Puget Sound, which also allows Washington state companies to support numerous other industries and thousands of jobs in the Puget Sound. For example, NOAA research vessels that are based in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska all use companies in the Puget Sound to perform annual maintenance on their vessels; the Seattle-based commercial fishing industry regularly calls on local shipyards; and two of the Coast Guard’s most important tools are manufactured by Washington state companies.
The United States lags behind other nations in its fleet of polar icebreakers and must routinely contract with foreign countries to use their icebreakers. Russia has a fleet of 20 heavy ice breakers and is nearing completion of its first nuclear-powered icebreaker, which puts it at a considerable advantage as it attempts to control energy exploration and maritime trade in the Arctic. The U.S. Navy and the Air Force have called icebreakers “an essential instrument of US policy” in the Arctic and Antarctic.
This award was made through a competitive bid process.