UPDATED: Guardians Respond in Haiti – CGC Oak

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The Coast Guard Cutter Oak, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Charleston, S.C., is moored to a pier in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, January 18, 2010. (Coast Guard photo)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The Coast Guard Cutter Oak, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Charleston, S.C., is moored to a pier in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, January 18, 2010. (Coast Guard photo)

Since the 225-foot buoy tending Coast Guard Cutter Oak arrived in Haiti on Jan. 18, the crew has been working diligently to reopen the port of Port-Au-Prince and bring humanitarian aid to the Haitian people.

Besides the delivery of medical supplies, food stores and several tons of donated bottled water, one of the cutter’s first missions upon arriving in Port-Au-Prince was to establish a safe navigational route into the port. The cutter surveyed, serviced and placed several buoys, opening the port to limited traffic on Jan. 21.

Working under the Joint Task Force, the Oak is collaborating with Haitian port officials and the maritime community to continue port reconstitution efforts. On Friday, the Coast Guard Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit (MTSRU) embarked the cutter and the two units have been working hand-in-hand throughout the weekend to survey the port, place additional buoys and ensure the safety of maritime traffic in Port-Au-Prince.

To support the arrival of vessels and relief aid by sea, the units implemented a Vessel Traffic Center on board the cutter. The cutter is currently serving as the Vessel Transportation System coordinator for all vessels intending on entering the Port-Au-Prince harbor.

“Ships are required to contact their agents and the Atlantic Area Incident Management Team 96 hours prior to their arrival into the Port-Au-Prince,” said Capt. John Little, the team leader for the MTSRU. “They are also requested to contact the vessel traffic management team aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Oak on VHF-FM channel 16, either 24 hours in advance or when arriving in Port-Au-Prince harbor. Each vessel is cleared to moor through the Haitian Port Authority Director for all arrivals.”

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The Coast Guard Cutter Oak sits in the harbor of Port-au-Prince Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. The Oak arrived in Port-Au-Prince Sunday to assist with relief efforts for Haiti. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandyn Hill)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The Coast Guard Cutter Oak sits in the harbor of Port-au-Prince Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. The Oak arrived in Port-Au-Prince Sunday to assist with relief efforts for Haiti. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandyn Hill)

“We try to maintain a balance to ensure that each type of vessel is able to offload its cargo because each is critical to restoring the transportation system,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Shepard, a member of the MTSRU. “The pier is sound, although it’s limited in its capability to handle cargo. We have to bring ships in one at a time.”

The cooperative port reconstitution mission is part of the unified U.S. government’s earthquake response in support of the Haitian government.

For more information and pictures of the CGC Oak and its mission in Haiti, check out the unit’s newsletter here. ‘The Shade Tree’ is a publication put out by Oak’s public affairs officer, ENS Jason Radcliffe, and is intended to keep crew members and their families informed of milestones, events, and information about the Oak and her crew.

UPDATE: Click here to read a guest blog post on iCommandant from the Commanding Officer of the CGC Oak, written while at anchor in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

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CGC Oak is one of 16 sea-going buoy tenders and was designed to conduct the widest array of missions of any ship in the Coast Guard Fleet. The Oak is homeported in Charleston, S.C., and is commanded by Commander Mike Glander from Staten Island, NY.

The 225-foot cutter is equipped with a single controllable pitch propeller, and a bow and a stern thruster which gives the cutter the maneuverability it needs to tend buoys offshore and in restricted waters. A Dynamic Positioning System (DPS) can hold the vessel within a ten meter circle using the Global Positioning System (GPS) allowing the crew to service and position floating aids to navigation more precisely than before in winds up to thirty knots and eight foot seas. The cutter is also equipped with a crane that can lift 20 tons.

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