Coast Guard and Bollinger Shipyards lay the keel for new class of cutters

LOCKPORT, La. — The U.S. Coast Guard participated in a keel laying ceremony for the first Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) at Bollinger Shipyards here, Friday. The 154-foot Sentinel-class patrol boat, which will be a key component of the Coast Guard’s recapitalized fleet, is critically needed to replace the aging 110-foot Island-class patrol boat fleet. To honor past Guardians who stood the watch, each Sentinel-class FRC will be named for one of the Coast Guard’s many enlisted heroes.

In attendance at today’s ceremony were U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen; Assistant Commandant for Acquisition Rear Adm. Ronald J. Rábago; Bollinger Shipyards Inc. CEO and Chairman of the Board Donald “Boysie” Bollinger; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.).

“I’m proud to be a part of this historic ceremony which recognizes the effectiveness of the Coast Guard’s acquisition program and the men and women of Bollinger Shipyards for their continued commitment to build a fine fleet of ships,” said Admiral Thad Allen Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. “Today, we introduced the Sentinel class of multi-mission cutters which will serve the Coast Guard for many years to come. We’ve honored the spirit and courage of our enlisted heroes by naming these cutters in their honor.”

The first Sentinel-class FRC will be named the Bernard C. Webber, after a coxswain from Station Chatham, Mass. On February 18, 1952, Petty Officer Webber led his three-man crew through a fierce winter storm to save the lives of 32 crewmen from a sinking freighter, the Pendleton. Petty Officer Webber and his crew were each awarded the Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroic actions in the rescue.

The Bernard C. Webber, which will be home ported in Miami, is expected to be delivered in spring 2011. Webber’s daughter, Ms. Pattie Hamilton, is the ship’s sponsor and his granddaughters, Leah and Hilary, are the maids of honor.

“He told me, ‘on that night he was called to duty, they went out, they were just doing their job,'” said Hamilton. Commenting on her father’s legacy forever cemented on the first FRC, Hamilton said, “I still can’t believe it’s true. It’s absolutely amazing. Words cannot describe it. I’m very honored and very excited.”

The Coast Guard awarded Bollinger an $88 million contract for the first Sentinel-class FRC in September 2008. The Sentinel-class FRC design is based on the Damen Stan Patrol 4708 patrol boat, and the project leverages expertise from the Coast Guard’s highly successful 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat project, also built by Bollinger.

On December 15, 2009, the Coast Guard awarded a $141 million contract option to Bollinger to begin low-rate initial production on three additional Sentinel-class FRCs. The current contract is worth up to $1.5 billion if all options for 34 cutters are exercised. The Coast Guard plans to build a total of 58 Sentinel-class FRCs.

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