The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to beef up its presence in the Pacific with an 11th vessel for the Hawaii-based District 14 region. The service announced that it has selected the CGC Harriet Lane as its new "Indo-Pacific Support Cutter" and that the vessel will move from Portsmouth, Virginia, to Honolulu early in fiscal year 2024.
As concerns about illegal fishing and depleting fisheries around the world raise alarm bells, the Coast Guard has been stepping up enforcement efforts as well as partnerships with countries across the region.
"I welcome the Coast Guard's expanded role in the Indo-Pacific, as it has been one of our country's best ambassadors to this critical region," U.S. Rep. Ed Case said in a news release Friday. "This expansion will heighten Hawaii's own role as a center of our country's efforts in the Indo-Pacific as well as ensuring that our own home waters are fully protected."
Case has pushed for more funding for the Coast Guard and a larger Hawaii presence. Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, the Coast Guard deputy commandant for operations and policy, told military news outlet Defense One in February that the service intends to triple its deployments in the Pacific in coming years.
The Coast Guard has been boosting its presence steadily in the Pacific. In 2021, the service added an unprecedented three fast-response cutters to its sector on Guam. The service also had explored basing one in American Samoa but ditched plans after a study found it logistically unfeasible, though Coast Guard cutters regularly visit and conduct patrols of the U.S. Pacific territory.
The service currently has six cutters in Hawaii and four on Guam. The Harriet Lane, a medium-endurance cutter, is a relatively old vessel and was commissioned on June 14, 1984. The 1,800-ton cutter is 270 feet long, 38 feet wide and manned by a crew of about 100.
Many Pacific island nations lack a navy or coast guard of their own. The Coast Guard regularly receives requests for assistance in search-and-rescue operations as well as tracking suspicious vessels. In 2022, Honolulu-based cutters made several trips to the island nation of Kiribati to deliver water and other supplies as the country suffered a severe drought.
U.S. officials have cited concerns about overfishing, particularly by China's large state-subsidized fleet, as among the reasons for a boosting the Coast Guard's footprint in the region.
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