Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy suffers major fire damage

The Healy in better days
Above, an undated photo of Healy in better days.

At 1930 local time on 18 August, just after leaving Seward, Alaska where it had stopped to pick up scientists and their equipment for an Arctic cruise, Healy suffered an electrical fire of unknown cause. Although the fire was extinguished by 1956, it destroyed one of the two propulsion motors and shafts (the starboard one). No one was injured, and the vessel was able to proceed south to its homeport in Seattle, arriving there on 31 August. Two news items...this 24 August Coast Guard news release as well as this 25 August U.S. Naval Institute news article which quotes the Coast Guard's news release.

By 18 October, Healy had entered drydock at Mare Island Dry Dock LLC in Vallejo--the former site of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard which was decommissioned in 1996, and where the Polar Star has spent time after recent Antarctic deployments.

The starboard stern screw
A view of the starboard stern screw. The hull will need to be cut open to replace its motor as well as its screw shaft. Unlike the Polar Star, these screws are fixed pitch.
Healy's bow in drydock
And a view of the bow. The square areas not covered by barnacles are anodes or cathodes relating to the cathodic protection system which is intended to reduce corrosion. Presumably the barnacles will be scraped off.

Time for some technical details. First, here's the Coast Guard's Healy web site page with specifications...as well as the Wikipedia page. Healy was built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, was launched in 1997, and placed in active commission in August 2000.

The propulsion system is diesel-electric--common in vessels of this type--where there are diesel-powered electric generators which power electric propulsion motors. There are 4 Sulzer engine generators, each capable of 8.64 MW...powering two electric propulsion motors each capable of 11.2 MW (the generators also provide ships service power under normal conditions). The starboard propulsion motor and screw shaft will require replacement.

two of the Healy's generators
A look at a couple of the diesel-electric generators.
the Healy's bridge
A view of the huge Healy bridge. These two photos are mine from my January 2020 tour of the vessel by 2004 winterover Polie Sarah Kaye.
a look at the ruined propulsion motor
This is the defective starboard motor, after some cleanup, disassembly, and removal of insulation where bulkhead needs to be cut away for repair/replacement.
pressure washing the hull
Meanwhile, the barnacles and other marine life aka "biofouling" was being removed from the hull by pressure washing. This is the area where the hull must be cut away to replace the motor and screw shaft.

So what will the motor being replaced with? Interestingly, in 1997 a spare was constructed. It has been in storage at a Baltimore Coast Guard facility since then inside a specially constructed building that had to be partially demolished to get it out.

storage building siding removal
Here's the siding being removed from the building where the motor was being stored.
staging the motor for shipment
The 106-ton motor was then enclosed in a steel box to protect it during ocean shipment...
loading the motor onto a barge
Loading the encased motor onto a barge for the journey to Mare Island via the Panama Canal. The box was welded to the barge. By the way, if you use Facebook you can watch this video about the motor and its preparation for shipment...this video from the Baltimore Coast Guard Yard's Facebook page.
motor arrives in California
About 19 November the motor arrived at Mare Island Dry Dock.
cutting a hole in the hull
Time to cut a big hole in the hull...this view from the inside...
scaffold on the hull






...and on the outside of the hull. These 2 photos were posted on 19 November.
the hole in the hull
23 November...the hole in the hull. Some of the hull steel in the "ice belt" is 2 inches thick.
hull hole in the motor room



A view of the cut hole from inside the motor room. These and the next few photos were posted on 11/23.
staging for the motor removal
roller tracks to remove and replace the motor

Above, two more photos of the hull opening, and the tracks that are being installed to roll the old motor out and roll the new one in. Note the Mammoet label on the gang box...they are a heavy lift contractor that I've worked with on more than one power plant construction project, they are good.

On 27 November the switcheroo happened! You can watch the whole thing on this YouTube video! Below I've included a few screen grabs to show what was going on.

pulling out the old motor
Pulling out the old motor. If you look closely you can see hydraulic jacks (with red and black hoses) which are pulling the motor along the track. I've seen this done a number of times on other projects.
lifting up the old motor
Up up and away with the old motor! From what I hear it will be closely inspected to see if any of it is salvageable.
the new motor
And here comes the new motor.
moving the new motor into place
Pushing the new motor into place with those hydraulic jacks.

Still to come...a bit more jacking and rigging to remove those Hillman rollers under the motor, and the beams they rolled on and to lower the motor into place. After that...a BIG alignment job for some millwrights. On one of my North Slope projects I dealt with a pump motor that was perhaps 1/4 the physical size of this one...and the millwrights struggled to get it aligned.

Stay tuned for more updates. All of these photos unless otherwise indicated are from the Healy Facebook page, which I recommend. I'll add credits for the video footage: PACS NxyoLyono Cangemi and LTJG Trevor Layman (who has also been doing the social media updates).