President Barack Obama will call for an expanded fleet of Arctic ice breakers on Tuesday, warning that the U.S. risked losing control of shipping routes, fishing grounds and pristine habitats if the Coast Guard does not strengthen its presence in the region.
The plan hastens the construction of a new Arctic ice breaker by two years and urges Congress to release “sufficient resources” to build still more vessels, the New York Times reports. The U.S. Coast Guard currently has a fleet of two active ice breakers, far fewer than Russia’s 41 vessels, with 11 more in the pipeline.
The rush to build new vessels comes amid an expansive thaw of Arctic ice, which have enabled nations to break new passageways through the region.
“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search and rescue activities, and provide for regional peace and stability,” the White House said in a press statement.