Written by Senior Chief Petty Officer Rachel Polish
Outrunning a hurricane only added to the tales that one of the Coast Guard’s most storied assets, with more than 50 years of service to the United States, could tell. In a ceremony in Honolulu that was delayed several days by the arrival of Hurricane Lane, the recently decommissioned Coast Guard Cutter Sherman was transferred to the Sri Lankan Navy, Aug. 27, 2018, and will become the largest vessel in that nation’s fleet at 378 feet.
The ship is the second Coast Guard vessel transferred to Sri Lanka under the Foreign Assistance Act, which allows excess defense assets to be granted to friendly foreign governments. The joint training and operations in preparation of the transfer further strengthened the defense cooperation between the United States and Sri Lanka.
The ex-Sherman, currently known as P-626, will be used for critical law enforcement and security missions in Sri Lanka’s territorial and international waters.
“In recent years the people of Sri Lanka have found their nation, due to its geographic location, become an attractive transit point for the illegal drug trade,” said Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, assistant commandant for Acquisition and chief acquisition officer for the Coast Guard, in a ceremony presided over by Haycock and Sri Lankan Navy commander Vice Adm. Sirimevan Ranasinghe. “The United States is proud to transfer this cutter to the Sri Lankan government to support their efforts to curb the drug trade through their nation. We are proud to be partners with Sri Lanka in the fight against transnational crime and fostering maritime safety and security.”
According to Haycock, preparing this cutter for transfer was truly a collaborative effort between the Sherman’s crew, the Sri Lanka Navy, and the Coast Guard’s acquisition directorate foreign military sales team. In determining if Sherman had the capabilities to meet the Sri Lankan Navy’s needs as an offshore patrol vessel, the prospective commanding officer and engineering officer sailed with the Sherman crew from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Honolulu in January. Following the Joint Visual Inspection and multiple planning meetings, the Sri Lankan Navy signed the Letter of Offer and Acceptance in July, kicking off the formal transfer process and daily training sessions with “old” and “new” crew members.
Days before the planned transfer ceremony, Hurricane Lane began to gain strength off the Hawaiian coast, presenting another joint training opportunity as crews determined how to best protect the ship from the impending storm. The Coast Guard quickly assembled a crew of 56, including members from the ex-Sherman, other Coast Guards members in Hawaii with experience serving aboard 378-foot cutters, and newly-reported members from the future Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, to join 109 Sri Lankan Navy sailors in a mission to move the ship to safety. The Coast Guard crews assisted with underway and engineering watches while supporting their Sri Lankan partners in transiting 220 nautical miles from Aug. 22-26, 2018, sparing the former cutter from likely damage and adding another adventure to its extensive operational history. One day after returning to Honolulu, the ceremony formalized the official transfer of the vessel to Sri Lanka.
“This farewell is especially bittersweet for me, as I had the privilege of serving as executive officer and commanding officer of this fine ship,” said Haycock. “I can attest that the Sri Lanka Navy is getting a capable vessel that will serve it well. It is an honor to see this former Coast Guard cutter continue its service with our great friends, the nation of Sri Lanka.”
Sherman was launched Sept. 3, 1968, and was the sixth of 12 Hamilton-class high endurance cutters built by Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans. Many of the 378-foot high endurance cutters long outlived their planned service lives and are in the process of being replaced by 418-foot national security cutters, which will soon serve as the Coast Guard’s primary long-range vessels.
The transfer of the Sherman to Sri Lanka supports the Coast Guard’s efforts to strengthen the United States’ relationship with partner nations in the western Pacific, enhancing their maritime capabilities and governance, and supporting regional stability and the security of global maritime commons.