Bollinger Shipyards has delivered the USCGC Oliver Henry to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Fla. This is the 163rd vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 40th Fast Response Cutter (FRC) delivered under the current program.
The new cutter is the second of three FRCs to be homeported in Apra Harbor, Guam, increasing the presence for the U.S. Coast Guard in the Indo-Pacific Theater. Additionally, later in 2020, Bollinger will deliver the first of six FRCs that will be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the Island Class Patrol Boats supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the U. S. Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States.
The homeporting of three FRCs in Guam is part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s “doubling down on Oceania,” allowing more frequent and longer patrols in an area where the U.S. Coast Guard has increased its presence over the past 18 months and is aligned with the U.S. position on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific.” In a speech last year, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz stressed the strategic importance of the service’s presence in the region saying, “We’re on a trajectory where the geostrategic importance of the Oceania region has not been higher here in decades, and it’s a place that the Coast Guard’s looking to be part of the whole-of-government solution set.”
The last 20 weeks of the USCGC Oliver Henry’s build occurred during the COVID-19 global pandemic, and Bollinger said it undertook precautions to ensure the health and safety of employees and maintain its delivery schedule. In addition to increased and enhanced sanitization practices across the shipyard, Bollinger enacted more liberal leave and remote work policies as well as altered shift schedules to promote social distancing.
Bollinger President and CEO Ben Bordelon said, “Delivering vessels on schedule and on budget to the Coast Guard in these unprecedented times given the COVID-19 challenges that we are all facing shows the resiliency and dedication of our incredibly capable workforce. The FRC hot production line continues to produce and provide stability in the industrial base for the U.S. government and our Bollinger workforce, assuring economic benefit for the Lafourche Parish Louisiana region, our vendor partners in the 40-plus states that support the FRC program, and our country.“
Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished himself or herself in the line of duty. Oliver Henry was the first minority service member to move from the wardroom to the engine room and rose rapidly through the ranks of enlisted mechanics. He was one of the Service’s first minority warrant officers and served over 15 years of his 26-year career as a warrant. As a leader and role model, he mentored many of the next generation of Service leaders, including officers and enlisted men. His career exemplified the Coast Guard’s core values of “honor, respect and devotion to duty” and serves as an inspiration to other enlisted men and women.
The FRC is an operational “game changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. FRCs are consistently being deployed in support of the full range of missions within the USCG and other branches of our armed services. This is due to its exceptional performance, expanded operational reach and capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art C4ISR suite (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.