This post is last in a series about Adm. Bob Papp’s visit last week to Alaska and the Arctic.
While America is a maritime nation, Alaska is one of its most maritime states. The waters here are legendary for their rich fisheries and their extreme weather conditions. Plying these waters are fishing vessels, ferries, pleasure craft, cruise ships, merchant ships sailing between North America and Asia, as well as tankers moving oil from the Port of Valdez to refineries on the U.S. West Coast.
Everyone from the average Alaska citizen to a surfer in Southern California, farmer in Nebraska or banker in New York has a keen interest in these waters whether they realize it or not. The impacts include the cost of fuel, availability of seafood, security of trade with global markets and jobs. And this is why Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp announced during his visit last week several adjustments to Coast Guard forces in Alaska that will ensure the service continues to perform its duties there.
Helicopters for Air Stations Sitka and Kodiak:
“After the tragic loss of Air Station Sitka’s helicopter CG-6017, the unit was limited to two helicopters which is unacceptable given the extreme Alaskan weather conditions in which these helicopters often operate. We are replacing 6017 with a refurbished Navy helicopter that will be converted to the Coast Guard configuration.”
“We presently have four helicopters assigned to Kodiak, but our analysis of the demanding weather environment and extensive area show that a fifth helicopter is warranted. In the late Fall of 2011, I will temporarily assign a fifth helicopter here to support the Opilio Crab Season, and in 2013, I will permanently assign a fifth helicopter pending appropriation of the fiscal year 2012 budget request.”
This increase in helicopters will enable our men and women to stand their watch with the right capability and capacity to respond quickly and safely.
Cutters for Ketchikan:
“The Coast Guard is planning on placing two of our newest class of patrol boats, the 154-foot Sentinel Class fast response cutter, in Ketchikan. The timeline is not as quick as we want to get them there, but we are happy to be planning on stationing these very capable patrol boats to this demanding area. In the interim, I am moving one of our 110-foot patrol boats from Miami to Ketchikan to provide additional capacity as a stop-gap measure.”
To prepare for the Sentinel Class cutters in Ketchikan, approximately $25 million has been requested in the fiscal year 2012 budget to begin the infrastructure project which will be completed over the next few years.
Large cutter replacements:
“Completion of the National Security Cutter fleet – our newest and most capable high-endurance cutter – is critical to our ability to continue our Bering Sea fisheries. Bertholf, our first National Security Cutter, just finished her first Alaska patrol, exhibiting remarkable sea keeping ability that enabled her to launch and recover her boats, boarding teams and helicopters in sea states that would challenge our legacy cutters.”
“We are also working on an extended plan to replace our medium endurance cutters with an envisioned Offshore Patrol Cutter. Some of these cutters could be placed in Alaska to replace ships already located there and they would certainly operate in Alaskan waters.”
National Security Cutters one, two and three are complete, steel is being cut on four and a contract for five is nearly finalized. At least eight NSCs are required to meet the Service’s needs.
Collectively, these changes will ensure that Coast Guard men and women who serve in the State of Alaska have the tools they need to conduct search and rescue, protect fisheries and secure borders.