PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Northland is back in Portsmouth Thursday in time for Fourth of July festivities following a successful two-month patrol in counter-drug, alien migrant interdiction operations and search and rescue.
Maintaining a visible presence off the coast of Haiti, Northland deterred smugglers from transporting drugs and illegal migrants, and from committing other illicit activities. During the cutter’s two-month patrol, there were no reports of illegal migrants departing Haiti by sea, which undoubtedly saved lives as smugglers’ vessels are commonly overloaded and unseaworthy.
Northland’s deployment highlights include:
• Rescuing and helping the stranded Haitian merchant vessel Hunter, June 13, adrift due to an engine casualty. Northland’s crew provided fresh water and food to the 15-member crew and created a customized rig to safely tow the vessel. After an intense electrical storm prevented turnover of the vessel to the Haitian Coast Guard, Northland and the Charleston, S.C.-based Cutter Oak’s crews safely anchored Hunter in Cap Haitien, Haiti, and transferred the crewmembers ashore.
• Haitian merchant vessel Aisha was found adrift with five crewmembers aboard. The Northland guided its safe anchoring along the north coast of Haiti. Northland and other Coast Guard units monitored the Aisha until it could arrange repairs and a tow to Cap-Haitien.
• Working with Alameda, Calif.,-based National Security Cutter Bertholf, Northland transported a seizure of more than 1,250 pounds of cocaine from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, valued conservatively at $19 million. The contraband was offloaded in Miami Monday transferring its custody to the DEA.
“Homecoming is so much sweeter to be back on the Fourth of July,” said Cmdr. Holly Harrison, Northland’s commanding officer. “After an eventful patrol, being home makes us appreciate the success of our missions, being with our supportive families and friends and, most importantly, the dedication of our crews to serve their communities and their country.”
“I’m proud of our hard-working crew,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael D. Sharp. “With each successful drug bust and search and rescue case, it brings to fruition the relevance of homeland security and national defense missions: we are keeping drugs off the street and helping save lives.”
At 29 years old, the Northland and 26 other medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by the new Offshore Patrol Cutter. The OPC will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard's maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests. It 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 OPC 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.