Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew continues Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Key West

Capt. Jeffrey Janszen, second from left, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Key West, Florida, speaks Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, to Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crewmembers. Hamilton crewmembers are conducting post-storm relief efforts in Key West following Hurricane Irma. U.S. Coast Guard photo

Capt. Jeffrey Janszen, second from left, Commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West, Florida, speaks to Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crewmembers.  U.S. Coast Guard photo

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew continues relief efforts in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma in Key West.

The Hamilton crew relieved the Coast Guard Cutter Northland crew of its duties in Key West Thursday, taking control of four Fast Response Cutters. These FRCs are staged strategically throughout the Florida Keys to assist distressed boaters, mark vessels washed out to sea and continue resupply and rebuilding efforts.

“The interoperability of the Fast Response Cutters and the National Security Cutters is paying dividends, creating a disaster response network that is extensive and efficient, and stretches from Key West to Miami,” said Ltjg. Drew Ferraro, assistant operations officer of the Hamilton. “Our assets are now able to de-conflict reports and coordinate more effectively, which enables our cutters to respond to distress and enforce the law in a much more efficient manner.”

Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton, an FRC homeported in Key West, discovered a sailing vessel adrift south of the Florida Keys and discovered no persons aboard and no one in distress. Other FRCs are responding to vessels adrift and aground in and around the Florida Keys.

“The damage in and around the Port of Key West is extensive,” said Cmdr. Eric Helgen, executive officer of the Hamilton. “Our early morning deployment revealed as many as 100 vessels with extensive damage, with multiple sunken vessels within the various waterways, or aground, impacting roadways, homes, and businesses. The destructive force of Hurricane Irma was immediately apparent when entering the port.”

Capt. Jeffrey Janzsen, the Coast Guard Sector Key West commander and Captain of the Port, and his staff of approximately 30 Coast Guard members, weathered Hurricane Irma at Sector Key West. They are currently working to restore and reopen the Port of Key West and reestablish full operational capability of the Coast Guard throughout the region.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to use the robust capabilities of the new National Security Cutter to assist in the relief of fellow Coast Guard personnel and the citizens of the Keys,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, the commanding officer of the Hamilton. “In a crisis, command and control is a critical function, and the Hamilton crew is well-suited for that role.”

Due to extensive damage to communications infrastructure, the Hamilton is fulfilling one of its many missions as a mobile headquarters utilizing advanced command and control systems. The Hamilton crew is enforcing Captain of the Port orders with two of their embarked small boats and transporting mission critical supplies and personnel to Sector Key West.

All mariners are reminded that the Port of Key West is currently closed until the Captain of the Port rescinds the closure order.

The Hamilton is one of two 418-foot National Security Cutters homeported in Charleston, South Carolina.

For imagery and video of the Hurricane Irma response, please visit our Flicker page.

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