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Russian icebreaker, Coast Guard cutter aim to cut path to Nome

Alaska Dispatch

The city of Nome announced on Wednesday that plans have firmed up for a Russian tanker to deliver 1.5 million gallons of petroleum products to the ice-encased city at the end of the Iditarod Trail early next month, according to the Associated Press.

Nome Mayor Denise Michels said the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy will assist by helping break ice for some 300 miles from the ice edge to Nome, extending the mission of the Seattle-based ship by a month.

The Russian tanker Renda, a 371-foot double-hulled vessel that recently muscled through five-foot thick ice, was sought by the Nome-based Sitnasuak Native Corporation to break through Nome’s sea ice and deliver the fuel. The privately owned Renda is one of eight marine tankers in Russia that can punch through thick sea ice. Jason Evans, chairman of Sitnasuak, earlier this month said he couldn't find similar ships in the U.S.

Evans said his company's search highlighted the nation's limits in the high Arctic. "We're definitely behind in terms of how many vessels we have and their abilities, and it's something we might want to look at with proposed offshore oil and gas development and new vessel routes opening in the Arctic," said Evans. "The Russians have known this is coming and have developed Arctic shipping expertise. The U.S. should also."