SEWARD, Alaska — President Obama on Tuesday proposed speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.
The president’s proposal, on the second day of a three-day trip to Alaska to highlight the consequences of climate change and call for a worldwide effort to address the issue, touches on one of its most profound effects. The retreat of Arctic sea ice has created opportunities for shipping, tourism, mineral exploration and fishing, but the rush of marine traffic that has followed is bringing new difficulties.
“We need the assets to ensure we can safely operate in the Arctic,” Ms. Murkowski said. “That means icebreakers, aircraft and oil spill response infrastructure.”
In addition, Mr. Obama announced an initiative by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard to map and chart the newly accessible Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The oceanic agency will also install new equipment in the Arctic in the “near future” to monitor climate-change effects and enhance marine safety, including stations to monitor sea-level rise and satellite measuring of sea-ice thickness, the White House said.