CAPE MAY, N.J. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous, homeported at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, returned April 1 following a two-month patrol of the Atlantic seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
During the patrol, the Vigorous crew conducted a 6-day escort of the cruise ship Carnival Triumph to a cruise ship terminal in Mobile, Ala., after Triumph became disabled and adrift following an engine room fire. The Vigorous crew also medevaced one Triumph passenger.
“The incident with Triumph highlighted the inherent value of an offshore cutter fleet,” said Cmdr. Gregory Magee, the ship’s commanding officer. “The Vigorous crew rapidly arrived on scene and ensured all steps were taken to ensure the safety of more than 4,000 people.”
Following the Triumph escort, the Vigorous proceeded to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for a logistics stop, but suffered a generator casualty and used nine patrol days to make repairs.
Intelligence indicates that up to two-thirds of the illegal drugs transferred by maritime routes can’t be intercepted due to limited resources. This is exacerbated by aging cutters losing more than a quarter of their scheduled patrol days to unscheduled or additional maintenance.
“The generator casualty is one example of how an aging Coast Guard cutter fleet is harder to maintain and operate,” said Magee. “This particular casualty caused the loss of nine operational days. A lot can happen in nine days; the entire Triumph incident lasted seven days for our unit.”
Additionally, the Vigorous crew worked in support of the Joint Interagency Task Force – South, which combines many agency capabilities to jointly stem the flow of narcotics into the U.S. During this deployment, the Vigorous crew partnered with the Colombian navy for a drug interdiction, and a search and rescue case in which a vessel ran aground.
The crew also participated in a community service project in Boca Del Toro, Panama, to help restore a nursing home.
The 44-year-old Vigorous and the other medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by an Offshore Patrol Cutter. The new OPCs will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard's maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interoperability with other military and federal partners, superior to the cutters they replace. Equipped with modern sensors, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will provide the enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.