“Indo-Pacific partners lead global fight against IUU fishing” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Catch is readied for inspection during a boarding by USCGC Frederick Hatch crew members and a local maritime officer in Micronesia’s EEZ. IMAGE CREDIT: PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS BRANDON CHAPLEA/U.S. COAST GUARD

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum has a nice piece about cooperative efforts to curb Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing. USCG gets a lot of credit.

“Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrives in Kodiak, replaces SPAR”

Progress on the WLB In Service Vessel Sustainment Program.

united states coast guard

News Release  U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska


Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrives in Kodiak, replaces SPAR

A view of the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress is pictured as the vessel's crew transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship's new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Nov. 12, 2021. The Cypress crew transited over 7,600 nautical miles south along the east coast of the United States through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and North along the west coast of the United States through the Alaskan Inside Passage and to the vessel's new homeport. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
A view of the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress is pictured as the vessel’s crew transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship’s new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Nov. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress deck department stands on the buoy deck while the vessel transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship's new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2021. The Cypress will be filling the role of the “Aleutian Keeper,” replacing the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR as the 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tender and will be responsible for servicing aids throughout Kodiak Island and the Aleutian chain. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress deck department stands on the buoy deck while the vessel transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship’s new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.

KODIAK, Alaska — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cypress crew arrived in Kodiak, Sunday, after transiting from the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Maryland, upon completion of the ship’s Major Maintenance Availability (MMA).

The Cypress crew transited over 7,600 nautical miles south along the east coast of the United States through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and North along the west coast of the United States through the Alaskan Inside Passage to their new homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

The crew began preparing the Cypress for her maiden voyage to Alaska in August and will be returning to Kodiak after four months away from home.

The Cypress will be filling the role of the “Aleutian Keeper,” replacing the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR as the 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tender, and will be responsible for servicing aids throughout Kodiak Island and the Aleutian chain. SPAR departed Kodiak in January 2021, entered MMA in February 2021, and will be re-homeported in Duluth, Minnesota at the completion of the MMA.

Commissioned in 2001, the Cypress was stationed in Mobile, Alabama, and subsequently re-homeported to Pensacola, Florida, as the “Strong Arm of the Gulf,” servicing aids to navigation along 900 miles of coastline, stretching from Apalachicola, Florida, to the border of Mexico. The Cypress crew aided in hurricane recovery operations after Ivan, Katrina, and Rita, recovering and re-establishing buoys that hurricanes had moved up to 24 miles off station.

In 2004, the Cypress crew successfully recovered a sunken 38,000 lb. “Blue Angels” F/A-18A Hornet from 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico after a training accident. The Cypress crew had served thereafter as the center point for the annual Blue Angels’ air show at Pensacola Beach until her arrival at the Coast Guard Yard for MMA in August of 2020. In 2010, the Cypress crew responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacting the Gulf of Mexico, conducting oil recovery operations with specialized oil recovery equipment alongside sister ships Juniper, Walnut, Sycamore, Aspen, Oak and Elm, together recovering over 500,000 gallons of spilled oil and coordinating environmental cleanup activities between numerous federal, state, local, and private entities.

During her 34-day-long transit, the Cypress crew made port calls in Mayport, Florida, Key West, Florida, Long Beach, California, and Ketchikan, Alaska. The Cypress crew took full advantage of the long transit time to conduct damage control training, small boat training, engineering and navigation drills, and worked to build watch proficiency leading to 63 individual qualifications.

The Cypress crew looks forward to returning home to their families, serving their local Alaska community, and returning to the important work of servicing aids to navigation that support the Maritime Transportation System vital to Alaska’s robust maritime economy.

“Coast Guard buoy tender departs Bay Area for last time as San Francisco-based cutter” –News Release

USCGC Aspen (WLB 208) transits through the San Francisco Bay, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart)

Continued progress on the WLB In Service Vessel Sustainment program. Very nice photoessay.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 11th District Pacific Southwest

Coast Guard buoy tender departs Bay Area for last time as San Francisco-based cutter 

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Editor’s Note: Click on images above to download full-resolution version.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard Cutter Aspen (WLB 208) and crew departed the Bay Area Monday for the last time as a San Francisco-based cutter and are en route to the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore to under-go major maintenance and overhaul.

This marks the end of two decades of service along the California Coastline for the Aspen as one of 16 of the nation’s Juniper class sea-going buoy tenders. The 225-foot ship and its 48-person crew have been stationed at Yerba Buena Island since Sep. 28, 2001.

Aspen’s area of responsibility encompassed the coastal areas from the Oregon-California border down to San Diego. In addition to its primary buoy tender operations, the cutter also has a long history in search and rescue, drug and migrant interdiction and marine pollution prevention and response missions. Since 2005, the cutter has worked with U.S. partners in Mexico to interdict tens of millions of dollars in illicit narcotics in support of SOUTHCOM and Joint Interagency Task Force South objectives, most recently interdicting $3.2 million worth of cocaine in 2017.  In 2007, Aspen responded to the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 to assist in oil spill cleanup efforts.

The crew is slated to travel approximately 6,000 miles over the course of 40 days and pass from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Panama Canal. The Aspen is scheduled to undergo a $20 million, 12-month Major Maintenance Availability (MMA) overhaul.

The MMA is a planned dry dock event at the Coast Guard Yard, the first such major availability in the life of this class of ship. The availability will re-capitalize many of the ship’s critical systems, to include complete crane replacement, topside preservation work and technology modernization. The availability is designed to ensure that the cutter can reach its designed 30-year service life. Aspen will be the 11th 225-foot Juniper Class buoy tender to begin the MMA period.

This availability comes at a time when the Coast Guard is embarking on an unprecedented recapitalization of the cutter fleet. Major shipbuilding efforts throughout the county are underway, to include the National Security Cutter, Fast Response Cutter, Offshore Patrol Cutter, Polar Security Cutter and Waterways Commerce Cutter shipbuilding programs. The four 418-foot national security cutters, Bertholf, Waesche, Stratton and Munro stationed in Alameda, are the most visible local signs of these extensive programs.

The Coast Guard Cutter Alder (WLB 216) formerly homeported in Duluth, Minnesota, is slated to be brought back into service in summer of 2022 by the former Aspen crew and re-homeported in San Francisco. The Aspen’s scheduled final destination will be Homer, Alaska in early 2023. 

“It has been a privilege to serve along California’s rugged, oftentimes austere coastline; the beauty is without parallel, and the Pacific Ocean’s winds, current, fog and constant swells offshore continue to mold us as the stern teachers they are, said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Ledbetter, the Aspen’s commanding officer. “The U.S. is and always has been a maritime nation, and my crew relishes the challenges of keeping the maritime transportation system up and running in our capacity as a WLB. We look forward to continuing to serve this great country when we return to San Francisco aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alder next year.”

Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team San Francisco will be standing by to perform routine maintenance on the Aspen’s buoys throughout the Bay Area. Additionally, the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb, a 175-foot buoy tender homeported in San Pedro, is slated to maintain all aids to navigation south of San Francisco and the Coast Guard Cutter Elm, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Astoria, Oregon, is also slated to assist throughout Northern California in spring of 2022.

Historical photos of the Aspen are included below:

CGC Aspen transits under Bay Bridge CGC Aspen crew cleans buoy
CGC Aspen marijuana interdiction
Aspen with helicopter photo

“U.S. Coast Guard cutters support Oceania partners during month-long Operation Aiga in South Pacific” –Press Release

Samoa. Photo Credit: TUBS, This vector image includes elements that have been taken or adapted from this: Polynesian triangle.svg (by Gringer).

Below is a press release in full. I don’t normally report routine operations, but this seems a bit out of the ordinary, and part of a renewed interest in the Central and Western Pacific. It is also another demonstration of the capability of the 154 foot Webber Class cutters (“traveling between Honolulu and American Samoa, 2,300 miles in nine days, without refueling en route”). It also demonstrates the multi-mission capability of the large buoy tenders.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: (808) 265-7748
14th District online newsroom

 Imagery Available: U.S. Coast Guard cutters support Oceania partners during month-long Operation Aiga in South Pacific 

USCGC Joseph Gerczak American Samoa boardings  USCGC Walnut gives tours in Samoa US Embassy and USCGC Walnut aboard HMNZS Otago

Editors’ Note: Click on images to see more, view video, or download a high-resolution version.
You can also visit our Operation Aiga feature page on DVIDS here.

HONOLULU — The crews of two Coast Guard cutters, the Walnut (WLB 205) and Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), returned to Honolulu at the end of August following a successful deployment to Samoa and the U.S. territory of American Samoa, where they conducted operations to counter illegal fishing and strengthen relations with allies and partner nations. 

“Our Coast Guard crews demonstrated superior performance during intense operations over the past month in support of the Government of Samoa and within the U.S. territory of American Samoa,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander, U.S. Coast Guard 14th District. “Working with Australia and New Zealand, we supported the Government of Samoa by embarking Samoan law enforcement shipriders on a Coast Guard cutter to patrol their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and ensure Samoan sovereignty. We also patrolled the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa to protect U.S. sovereignty. Our crews’ local engagements in Samoa and American Samoa reinforced our enduring shared values and Polynesian heritage, and advanced U.S. strategic interests in Oceania.” 

The operation, named ‘Aiga,’ the Samoan word for family, was first announced by U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz in a July interview describing the Coast Guard expansion of its permanent presence and effectiveness in the region through expeditionary capabilities, doubling down in Oceania.

The U.S. employs 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum (PIF) nations throughout Oceania to help them counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing within their 200 nautical mile EEZ. Again, this operation was undertaken in coordination with Australia and New Zealand as Samoa awaits the delivery of its new, highly capable patrol boats from Australia later this year.

During the busy month-long deployment, the Walnut crew conducted numerous fishing vessel boardings with officers from the Samoan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Samoan EEZ. The Walnut also carried Australian Fisheries Management Authority officers and a Chinese linguist from the U.S. Marine Corps. They further conducted maritime exercises with the Royal New Zealand Navy ship HMNZS Otago (P148) and Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Choules (L100). 

“It was a pleasure to assist the government of Samoa, as part of a bilateral shiprider agreement, in enforcing their maritime sovereignty and resource security to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing within their exclusive economic zone,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Jasnoch, commanding officer, Walnut. “We also had the privilege to strengthen our partnerships with New Zealand and Australia and proved our inter-operability by conducting at-sea maneuvers with Otago and Choules.” 

The Walnut crew engendered goodwill by hosting a reception with the U.S. Embassy for the acting prime minister of Samoa and senior Samoan government officials. The Walnut team also visited, read to, and played games with students at the Lufilufi Primary School in Apia. During a second port call, crews from Walnut and Joseph Gerczak attended sports practices with the Samoan Junior National Golf Team and American Gridiron football club. Both ships complement also hosted shipboard tours for dignitaries, a maritime academy, and the public. 

“The crew felt extremely rewarded to have these opportunities, and we look forward to returning to Samoa and American Samoa, hopefully soon,” said Jasnoch.

In support of strong maritime commerce and maritime transportation system, the Walnut crew installed a new Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter in American Samoa designed to notify mariners of the location of navigational hazards within the harbor if the physical aid marking the hazard is damaged or not working properly. The crew also recovered a sunken buoy in Pago Pago and replaced it with a new one to ensure safe navigation for mariners transiting in and out of the U.S. strategic deepwater port. 
The Joseph Gerczak set a new mark for the expeditionary deployment of the 154-foot fast response cutters by traveling between Honolulu and American Samoa, 2,300 miles in nine days, without refueling en route.  

During the deployment, the Joseph Gerczak crew also conducted professional exchanges with the New Zealand navy crew of Otago.

“The exchange with the Otago crew was a great opportunity to share best practices and hear their knowledge of this area including Samoa and the high-seas pocket that we do not frequently patrol,” said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer, Joseph Gerczak. “It was a great experience to see how another nation’s navy operates and the similarities and differences between us.”

The Joseph Gerczak crew conducted joint boardings in the U.S. EEZ around American Samoa with U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforcement officers and the American Samoa Marine Police. Later, the Joseph Gerczak joined up with Walnut in Apia, Samoa to participate in community relations events on behalf of the U.S. Embassy. The Joseph Gerczak also assisted local responders with search and rescue efforts for two teenagers swept out from shore by high swells off the main island of Tutuila. Despite the best search efforts by all involved, the teens remain missing. All of these efforts had a profound impact on the crew.

“It’s been a long patrol, but getting out to Samoa, meeting some of the locals and getting to take part in operations was well worth the trip,” said Joseph Gerczak Fireman Ty Kamiyama. “It’s good to know that we have laid a foundation to continue building strong relations with the Samoan community.”

“This patrol was an amazing experience to see firsthand just what our asset is capable of,” said Joseph Gerczak Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Sabatini. “I thought getting to see the culture in Samoa was amazing. I got to go out with several other crewmembers to teach local youth about American football. It was such an enriching and rewarding time for all of us.”

The U.S. and its allies are trusted partners in Oceania. Operation Aiga is one of several operations conducted by the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France as part of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Pacific QUAD) in support of PIF countries. The Pacific QUAD has historically supported PIF countries in their efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing in their exclusive economic zones. This year, the Pacific QUAD expanded the scope of its activities to encompass the broad range of maritime security concerns expressed by the PIF in the 2018 Boe Declaration.

The Walnut is a 225-foot Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender responsible for maintaining aids to navigation, performing maritime law enforcement, port, and coastal security, search and rescue and environmental protection. Designed to patrol coastal regions, the Joseph Gerczak is a 154-foot Sentinel-Class fast response cutter and one of the newest patrol boats in the fleet to replace the 1980s-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. Both vessels call Honolulu their homeport.

Coast Guard Day in the South Pacific. The command from USCGC Walnut (WLB 205) conduct an exchange with peers on HMNZS Otago (P148) discussing mission, challenges and comparing shipboard life in the region while off Samoa Aug. 4, 2019. The Walnut and Otago crews are in the region combating illegal fishing, a part of promoting maritime governance and a rules based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Photo courtesy HMNZ Navy Lt. Samuel Murray/Released)

A Modest Proposal for a Containerized Weapon System

Leonardo DRS has been chosen to provide the mission equipment package (rendering pictured) atop a Stryker combat vehicle to serve as the Interim Maneuver-Short-Range Air Defense system for the U.S. Army. (Courtesy of Leonardo DRS)

     After the recent report of Russia containerizing anti-air missile systems I got to thinking about containerized systems the Coast Guard might use. There are many systems that might be containerized–sonars, torpedo countermeasures, cruise missiles, drones, 120mm mortars, medical facilities, but there is one combination I found particularly appealing.
     We could tie into the Army’s attempt to develop a new short range air defense system (SHORAD) by mounting a marinized version of the SHORAD turret on a container.  The systems are meant to fire on the move, so they should be able to deal with ship’s movement. The container might be armored to some extent to protect it from splinters and small arms. The container could be equipped to provide power (external connection, generator, and battery), air conditioning, air filtration, etc as the supporting vehicle would have in the Army system.  It looks like the planned interim SHORAD system will include Stinger, Hellfire, an M230 30mm gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. If we could mount some additional vertical launch Hellfire in the container, so much the better.
     For the Coast Guard these might be used on icebreakers and buoy tenders when they go into contested areas. They might be mounted on the stern of FRCs in lieu of the over the horizon boat using an adapter over the stern ramp, when additional firepower is required. 
     The Army and Marines might also use these containerized systems as prefab base defense systems. As fixed ground defenses, the containers might be buried leaving only the turret above ground level.
     They could also be used on Military Sealift Command and Merchant ships to provide a degree of self defense.

Renovation Completed On Sixth 225-Foot Seagoing Buoy Tender

Below is a post from the Acquisitions Directorate, provided here for convenience. Some history of the project here. There are a total of 16 Juniper class 225 foot buoy tenders so this program still has a while to run. 

Coast Guard Cutter Fir departed today from the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland, following completion of its midlife maintenance availability (MMA). The MMA is one of several projects that comprise the In-Service Vessel Sustainment (ISVS) Program to enhance mission capability, improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs of the service’s legacy cutter fleet.

Fir, which started undergoing the MMA work in August 2018, is the sixth of 16 225-foot seagoing buoy tenders to undergo this process through the ISVS Program. The work will keep the tenders in service another 15 years and includes an overhaul of the deck equipment and weight handling gear, updates to the machinery control system and HVAC systems, topside preservation and a stability assessment. The 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tenders were commissioned between 1996 and 2004. Fir will be stationed in Cordova, Alaska, after completing a roughly 7,000-8,000 nautical mile voyage through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific Coast. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Adams.

For more information: In-Service Vessel Sustainment program page

“Schultz: Coast Guard Expanding Western Pacific Operations” –USNI

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750) crew members observe the stars from Bertholf’s flight deck as the cutter and crew patrol the South China Sea on April 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

KUALA LUMPUR – The U.S. Coast Guard will increase its presence and deployments to Asia – particularly around Oceania and U.S. Pacific territories – and test out a new operational deployment concept in the region, service head Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

We have been seeing this happening. The Coast Guard has begun spending more time in and around the Western Pacific, particularly around US Western Pacific territories and Oceania.

The reference to use of a buoy tender as a mothership to support patrol craft operations looks like a test to see how useful the proposed basing of three Webber class cutters in Guam might be.

The Commandant suggested that the tender might partner with Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese vessels as well. He promised,

““In the face of coercive and antagonistic behavior, the United States Coast Guard offers transparent engagement and partnership,…”

There is no reason this should not work, hopefully it will lead to similar multi-unit operations in the Eastern Pacific drug transit areas where the Webber class could augment larger cutters.

Coast Guard Cutter Maple begins historic voyage through Northwest Passage

Photo: Maple in front of the LeConte Glacier

The following is a Coast Guard news release. USCGC Maple will be using the NorthWest Passage to transit to the Coast Guard Yard for its In Service Sustainment mid-life renovation, and will be doing some scientific research along the wah

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender homeported in Sitka, Alaska, departed Wednesday on a historic voyage through the Northwest Passage.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage. The crews of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957. All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

The crew of the cutter Maple will make a brief logistics stop in Nome, Alaska, to embark an ice navigator on its way to support marine science and scientific research near the Arctic Circle. The cutter will serve as a ship of opportunity to conduct scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The Maple crew will deploy three sonographic buoys that are used to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals. A principal investigator with the University of San Diego embarked aboard the cutter will analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier will rendezvous with the Maple later this month to provide icebreaking services as the Maple makes it way toward Victoria Strait, Canada. The Maple has a reinforced hull that provides it with limited ice breaking capabilities similar to Coast Guard 225-foot cutters operating on the Great Lakes.

“We’re very excited to make this voyage through the Northwest Passage and to assist in the Scripps Institute research,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Armstrong, commanding officer of the Maple. “In planning this, we have worked very closely with our Canadian counterparts and we look forward to continuing that cooperation in the Arctic.”

All scientific research, icebreaking and marine science activities that occur during the voyage will be conducted in accordance with the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation.

The Maple crew is expected to conclude their historic voyage in Baltimore, Maryland, during late August. The cutter will undergo scheduled maintenance in dry dock at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore for repairs and upgrades. The crew will return to Sitka to take command of the 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, which was previously homeported in Honolulu.