Coast Guard Cutter Reliance returns home after nine-week patrol

1st Coast Guard District News
KITTERY, MAINE — The 80-member crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Reliance returned to their homeport at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine on Saturday, following a nine-week patrol in Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic waters.

The crew of the 210-foot long Reliance was tasked with counter-drug and alien migrant interdiction operations in the waters between the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. During the patrol, Reliance focused on detecting and preventing unlawful entry of contraband and foreign nationals into U.S. waters.

Through coordination with other Coast Guard units and partner agencies, the Reliance supported the interdiction of approximately two dozen suspected illegal migrants off the coast of Puerto Rico. All migrants received food, water, shelter, and medical attention before being transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials for processing.

After a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Marine Patrol aircraft detected a suspicious go-fast vessel off the coast of Puerto Rico, the Reliance was tasked with pursuit and interdiction. The crew quickly launched the cutter’s Over the Horizon boat to pursue the go-fast.

After the two operators of the suspicious vessel became aware of the presence of Reliance’s cutter boat, they attempted escape and evasion without success. After boarding the suspicious vessel, the Reliance crew detained two suspected drug traffickers and seized 30 bales of contraband. Reliance then transported the detainees, vessel, and contraband to CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Ponce, Puerto Rico. After testing, the contraband was determined to be marijuana with a wholesale value of approximately $1.8 million.

In coordination with Dutch military personnel and assets from the nearby island of St. Martin, the Reliance was key in preventing environmental damage in U.S. waters while ensuring the safety of 18 lives during the response to a distressed 150-foot coastal freighter, ultimately towing the vessel to safe water and providing emergency fuel.

After six weeks of Caribbean operations, the Reliance crew relocated to the Virginia Beach, Va., area to conduct an intensive three week training period. This training focused on aviation, seamanship, navigation, and shipboard emergency response, resulting in increased operational readiness and earning a clean sweep across all areas with an average score of 96/100.

“The coordination with our interagency DHS partners was critical to the success of helping to protect the safety and security of the citizens of Puerto Rico this patrol,” said Coast Guard Capt. Steven P. Wittrock, commanding officer of the Reliance. “I am extremely proud of what the crew accomplished through several challenging operations this patrol as Reliance turns 50 years old later this summer before it departs on its next patrol.”

During the patrol, Reliance visited San Juan, Puerto Rico; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Mayport, Fla.; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Ponce, Puerto Rico, and Little Creek, Va. Crewmembers are happy to return home to their loved ones after another busy patrol.

Medium endurance cutters like the Reliance are built for multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications and helicopter and pursuit boat operations, which provide a key capability for homeland security operations at sea.

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