To ensure that operations in the north pacific area are not disrupted by the decommissioning of the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard is going to bring up more cutters. That’s according to Captain Riley Gatewood, the last Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro.
“Coast Guard Pacific Area cutter forces staff, they’re the ones that do the scheduling for the cutters that patrol Alaska and the Bering Sea. And they have a robust, overlapping cutter schedule. That will be covered down by both the Alex Haley that’s already here in Kodiak, and then those new national security cutters that are homeported in Alameda and Honolulu, right now on the west coast. So they absolutely will maintain that presence,” Gatewood said.
But that doesn’t mean that the Coast Guard will only seasonally have new cutters visiting Alaska’s waters. There are plans to position the most modern cutters in the Coast Guard up in Kodiak. More than one in fact.
“So of those cutter classes, there is no plan right now to have one of the national security cutters call Kodiak her homeport. The plan is for the new offshore patrol cutters, and their length escapes me right now. But I think it’s somewhere around 320 feet in length… But these offshore patrol cutters are being built right now in Panama City, Florida. And so the plan is to homeport two of those right here in Kodiak, Alaska,” Gatewood said.
According to the Coast Guard’s website, the offshore patrol cutters are 360-foot craft that have currently begun construction and are meant to bridge the gap between the national security class cutters and the fast response cutter. These vessels are so modern that the first one is still under construction, and the Coast Guard is expecting the first ship of that class to be completed in 2022. The third and fourth of the offshore patrol cutters are the ones coming to Kodiak, according to Captain Gatewood.
Another speculated acquisition for the Alaskan Coast Guard fleet are the newly planned Coast Guard icebreakers, part of a long-term plan to secure America’s position in an increasingly contested arctic. Captain Gatewood says that there is currently no plan for where these icebreakers will be stationed, but that they could be in Seattle, Alaska broadly, or in Kodiak specifically. It’s just not known yet.
Captain Gatewood also confirmed the fate of the Douglas Munro, asserting that it would be sold to a foreign navy or Coast Guard equivalent.
“So for Douglas Munro, absolutely. That’s a foreign military sales option. And that is actually in play right now– that’s all at the State Department level. Our obligation is to get the ship sterilized and ready for transfer to another host nation that is determined through the State Department,” Gatewood said.
The Douglas Munro will be driven to Seattle, where it will be prepared for sale. It is not clear where the Douglas Munro will go next, but it will receive new life in foreign service.
While it may be several years before a new cutter is homeported in Kodiak, in the meantime for fisheries enforcement and search and rescue, Alaskan’s may see a California-ported national security cutter making the long trek north to defend the North Pacific.