Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant returns home after a successful migrant interdiction and Windward Passage Patrol

A cutter boat from the Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant prepares to transfer migrants Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 in the Caribbean Sea.  The Vigilant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Florida. U.S. Coast Guard photo

A cutter boat from the Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant prepares to transfer migrants Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 in the Caribbean Sea.  U.S. Coast Guard photo

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – The crew of the 210-foot Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant returned to their homeport of Port Canaveral, Florida, Thursday, following an 8-week, migrant interdiction patrol in the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea.

During the patrol, the crew of the Vigilant was responsible for the rescue and care of 433 Cuban migrants.  Once onboard Vigilant, migrants are provided food, water, shelter and medical care.

While on patrol between Haiti and Cuba, known as the Windward Passage, Vigilant’s crew navigated Canal De La Tortue, a 3-mile-wide canal between northern Haiti and the Isle De La Tortue, to deter Haitians from attempting a dangerous ocean crossing to the United States.

Additionally, Vigilant embarked a ship-rider from the Royal Bahamas Defense Force. The RBDF member was on board to assist in exercising a U.S. – Bahamas maritime agreement to deter and interdict illegal migration to the U.S., through the Bahamas.  During Vigilant’s time in the Windward Passage, the cutter worked with assets from Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida, and Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos.

Just prior to returning to homeport, Vigilant completed shipboard helicopter standardization training. The ability to employ a shipboard helicopter is a force multiplier in Vigilant’s efforts in search and rescue, the war on drugs, and migrant interdiction.

“I am extremely proud of how this crew repeatedly met the daunting challenges of this vital mission, compassionately caring for large numbers of migrants, often for days on end,” said Cmdr. Riley Gatewood, Vigilant’s commanding officer.  “This around-the-clock operation includes complicated medical cases, multi-person security teams and frequent boat and helicopter evolutions. The sacrifices the crew and their families make for this ship are greatly appreciated.”

Vigilant is a 210 – foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral. Its missions include counter drug and migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fisheries laws, and search and rescue operations.

Vigilant, along with the service’s other medium endurance cutters, is slated to be replaced by a new fleet of Offshore Patrol Cutters  that will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests.

The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interagency interoperability. Its advanced technical features include modern sensors and enhanced surveillance capabilities necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.

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