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US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy returns to homeport following Northwest Passage transit and circumnavigation of North America

US Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) transited the Northwest Passage while on an Arctic deployment. (US Coast Guard)

The US Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter Healy (WAGB-20) returned to its Seattle home port on 20 November following a 22,000-mile (35,406 km) 133-day deployment circumnavigating North America.

The medium icebreaker transited north of Canada via the Northwest Passage, where the crew trained with members of the Canadian Coast Guard and Canadian Rangers for a search-and-rescue exercise.

There has been an increase in human activity, sea life, and vessel traffic in the region due to climate change, according to Captain Ken Boda, Healy commanding officer.

β€œThe climate is changing,” Capt Boda said on 21 October during a press briefing aboard Healy as it made a port call in Baltimore on its transit back to Seattle. β€œYou see a lot more vessels up there. You see a lot more people up there.”

That kind of increase leads to more search-and-rescue operations for the USGC and its partner services from Canada and other nations, he added.

β€œAs you get more and more traffic, that's really in the forefront of our minds. While we didn't see traffic in the Northwest Passage, we started seeing more vessels in Baffin Bay,” said Capt Boda, who has made five icebreaker deployments to the Arctic. When Healy crossed the Bering Strait, the crew sighted a Russian container ship heading south from the northern sea route, he added.

While noting an increase in human activity, Healy 's commanding officer also noticed a change in the sea environment around the ship.

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