Alert Clocking in, 53 Years On
The USCGC Alert (WMEC 630) is the newest of her class of 210-foot Reliance-class gunboats (WPG/WPC), her keel laid down in 1968 at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay. Commissioned 4 August 1969– the service’s 179th birthday– and is the 8th such cutter to bear the name going back to 1818.
Rebuilt in 1993-94 during a Mid-life Maintenance Availability (MMA) to give her a newer set of engines, generators, commo, and nav gear, Alert would also land her 3″/50 in favor of a much smaller (but still manually-operated) MK 38 25mm cannon. As the MMA was to extend her life for 15 years, she was later given a 9-month Medium Endurance Cutter Maintenance Extension Project (MEP) in 2009.
Now, some 53 years after she first joined the fleet, the humble little cutter, based since 1994 in Astoria, Oregon, is still getting it done. She just returned from a 68-day, 13,700-mile deployment, that saw her stretch her legs down from the PacNorthWest to the Panama Canal.
As noted by USCG Pacific Area:
While in theater, Alert’s crew boarded three Costa Rican fishing vessels and successfully removed 1,440 pounds of marijuana valued at $1.4 million. Furthermore, during the boarding of the fishing vessel Mujer Gitana, Alert’s crew detected and articulated numerous factors of reasonable suspicion allowing Costa Rica to issue a return to port order. Costa Rican Law Enforcement officials searched the vessel and located a hidden compartment under a reversible steel hydraulic door system, a smuggling technique that reportedly has never been seen before on a Costa Rican vessel. The search resulted in the seizure of 729 kilograms of cocaine worth $21.1 million, and the apprehension of seven detainees by one of our top-priority partner nations.
Additionally, the Alert crew led a multinational training engagement with the Guatemalan Navy, conducted three joint boardings with the Costa Rican Coast Guard, and responded to one search and rescue case involving an American fisherman off the coast of Baja California.
The embarked helicopter aircrew flew more than 50 hours over 16 days, and searched thousands of miles over the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The service’s 9th USCGC Alert, a brand-new 360-foot offshore patrol cutter (OPC) was announced in 2017 but likely won’t join the fleet for another decade, leaving the current one likely to keep on sailing into her 60s.
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