An interagency study of the nation's polar ice-breaking requirements through the end of the century was recently completed. The Polar Icebreaker Requirements Study (PIRS) Group presented fleet size alternatives and recommended that the Icebreaker User Council define the capabilities required for new icebreakers. The User Council consists of representatives from the U.S. Navy, National Science Foundation, the Maritime Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Polar icebreakers are needed for three basic purposes: (1) resupply of Antarctic and Greenland stations, (2) logistical support of polar operations, and (3) scientific research. One of the PIRS recommendations was that any new icebreaker designs should enhance science support while meeting the requirements for escort and logistics. The U.S. Coast Guard will soon begin the preliminary design for a new class of polar icebreakers.