U.S. Coast Guard cutter embarks on critical Arctic mission


A United States Coast Guard cutter that was damaged by fire in 2020 is back at sea on a monthslong Arctic mission, conducting seafloor mapping and exchanges with maritime allies and partners.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy will transit through the Northwest Passage in September 2021 on a Canadian Arctic route that connects the North Pacific to the North Atlantic, The Seattle Times newspaper reported. The cutter also will travel through the Panama Canal in a circumnavigation of North America.

“Healy’s deployment provides opportunities to deepen the Coast Guard’s cooperation and commitment with our Arctic allies and partners and to support scientific exploration to increase understanding of the changing Arctic environment and associated impacts,” U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Adm. Michael McAllister said in a news release.


The Healy deploys each year to the Arctic to support science missions and Operation Arctic Shield, an annual exercise to enhance maritime domain awareness, strengthen partnerships and build preparedness, prevention and response capabilities across the Arctic.

The cutter was taken out of service after an August 18, 2020, fire damaged the starboard propulsion motor and shaft, according to a U.S. Naval Institute News report. After undergoing repairs in a California shipyard, the Healy and its 85-member crew departed from Seattle, Washington, on July 10 for the Arctic mission.

In addition to ocean floor mapping, the crew will analyze the effects of meltwater from Greenland’s glaciers. As sea ice melts, the Northwest Passage becomes more accessible.

“The last time the Healy did the Northwest Passage was in 2005. This is a great opportunity,” Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the 420-foot Healy, told The Seattle Times in a telephone interview from Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

The Healy, pictured, has more than 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space, oceanographic winches, electronic sensor systems and accommodations for up to 50 scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard said on its website. The cutter can break 4.5 feet of ice continuously at 3 knots and operate in temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Healy is also capable of supporting missions in polar regions, including logistics, search and rescue, environmental protection, ship escort, and law and treaty enforcement.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the cutter and its crew will promote U.S. interests along the nation’s maritime boundary line with Russia on its current mission.