US, Finland, Canada Forge Icebreaker Ship Pact to Counter Russia, China in Arctic

(Bloomberg) -- The US, Finland and Canada are teaming up to share shipbuilding expertise on icebreakers, expecting global demand for the vessels to grow as Russia and China increasingly make aggressive moves in the Arctic.

The three Western countries announced Friday at the NATO summit that they’ve established the partnership to strengthen their knowledge and make that expertise available to a broader group of allies.

The partnership will “bring world class expertise and experience to our shipyards that helps them attract demand, scale up their capacity and compete on the world stage,” US Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh told reporters. 

“Without this arrangement,” Singh added, “we’d risk our adversaries developing an advantage in a specialized technology with vast geostrategic importance.” 

The accord — officially the Icebreaker Collaboration Effort or ICE Pact — marks a response to developments in the Arctic as climate change radically reshapes the security environment, a Canadian government official said in a background briefing with reporters.

Russia and China have encroached on sovereign Canadian territory, with the latter labeling itself a “near-Arctic nation.” Separately, Canada announced at the summit that it was in the market for submarines capable of operating under ice, to shore up its weak defenses in the vast region.

Russia, according to a US official, has a fleet of more than 40 icebreakers with more in production — as well as a memorandum of understanding with China to strengthen cooperation in the region. The US, the official said, now has just two icebreakers and they’ll soon have to be replaced. Deploying a fleet that the US envisions could cost as much as $10 billion, the official added. 

The Canadian official called the icebreaker partnership an opportunity for the private sector to contribute to meeting demand and bolstering the supply chain.

Canada is home to multiple major shipbuilding firms including Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding and Halifax’s Irving Shipbuilding. Finland, too, boasts and Helsinki Shipyard and Rauma Marine. As for the US, Bollinger Shipyards is building icebreakers for the Coast Guard. 

The three nations said in a joint statement that they’ll develop an implementation plan over the next six months.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.