Three low-mileage USCG 87-foot Patrol Boats Headed South, like Forever

The Coast Guard ordered a whopping 74 87-foot Marine Protector-class patrol boats from Bollinger between 1998 and 2009– the largest buy of patrol craft since the Navy’s PCFs during Vietnam. Based on Damen’s Stan 2600 that is in use in several Latin American countries, the vessels were meant to finally phase out the USCG’s Vietnam-era 82-foot Point class patrol boats as well as a batch of 110-foot Island-class patrol boats which were ruined in a botched lengthening modification.

The USCGC Bonito (WPB-87341), a Marine Protector-class patrol boat, seen coming into Gulfport back in 2015, Photo by me.

The 87s have proved great vessels, capable of undertaking a weeklong patrol if needed (the smallest American maritime vessels with an embarked Culinary Specialist as well as onboard desalination capabilities) and have been stationed in such rough regions as Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. They were designed to operate in conditions up to Sea State 5, ranging out to 200nm offshore.

U.S. Coast Guard 87 foot Cutter Terrapin patrols frigid water while on a 37-day deployment in Southeast Alaska, July 10, 2016

Equipped with an AN/SPS-73 surface search radar, two M2 .50 cals, a small arms locker that enables a 4-6 man boarding detail drawn from their 11-man crew, and a stern launch and recovery system for the cutter’s waterjet-propelled small boat, they are some of the most advanced patrol craft for their size fielded anywhere in the world.

Heck, a fictional one even plays a prominent role in my (shameless plug) zombie book, for which I got to get underway on an 87 (Pompano) while doing research.

However, with a ton of the Coast Guard’s new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters coming on line, and the oldest 87s set to start aging out after 2028, 10 have been retired early. These gently used boats have been stacking up at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, in Parking Lot 23, where they are awaiting upgrade and outfitting before transfer to Uruguay (3) and Lebanon (7).

Speaking of which, three recently decommed 87s, USCGCs Albacore (WPB-87309), Cochito (WPB-87329), and Gannet (WPB-87334) were recently set up for transfer to Montevideo, where they will replace two elderly (60 year old) 95-foot USCG Cape-class patrol boats transferred to Uruguay in 1990.

U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm Paul F. Thomas, deputy commandant for mission support, and Andrés Durán Hareau, Uruguay ambassador to the U.S., sign for the transfer of three Coast Guard cutters to the Uruguay Navy at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington D.C., Feb. 10, 2022. The boats being transferred are 87-foot Marine Protector class cutters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA2 Ronald Hodges.)

From USCG PAO:

The Coast Guard, as a maritime partner of choice, is committed to assisting Uruguay authorities by supporting bilateral activities in the shared interest of the security and operational environment of the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

Thomas called the transfer a win-win situation, helping Uruguay to swiftly enhance their maritime security while forging an international partnership “that fosters greater global maritime security for us all.” He said he has no doubt that the Protector-class patrol boats – 64 of which are still in operation in the Coast Guard – will be an effective addition to the Uruguayan Navy.

The former cutters will undergo maintenance, upgrades, and outfitting at Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. Members of the Uruguay Navy will also be trained in the operation and maintenance of the vessels. Once work on the vessels and training are complete, the Uruguay Navy crewmembers will sail the patrol boats to Uruguay, with arrival anticipated in July 2022.

The transfer ceremony itself:

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