U.S. To Commence Homeland Security Patrols in the Arctic

JUNEAU, Alaska — Reminiscent of the 19th Century Revenue Cutter Bering Sea patrols, this month the Coast Guard is extending High Endurance cutter operations from the Bering Sea into the Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea, and the Arctic Ocean. This operation supports the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to extend maritime safety and security to the Arctic region in the face of retreating polar sea ice.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton will be the lead cutter in the United States’ push to extend security to U.S. Arctic waters.

“There’s more water in the Arctic than ever before, and the Coast Guard is accountable for its security,” said Adm. Thad Allen, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard, in Washington, D.C.

In addition to patrolling and protecting the nation’s interests in the Arctic, the 378-foot Hamilton will conduct a search and rescue exercise as part of the Coast Guard’s ongoing efforts to evaluate and develop response capabilities to maritime accidents in polar regions.

“We need to be as effective in the Arctic as we are everywhere else in our maritime domain,” said Rear Adm. Gene Brooks, Commander, 17th Coast Guard District. “Presently Coast Guard capabilities in the nation’s northern most waters are extremely limited.”

The deployment of the Hamilton follows and supports the Coast Guard establishing its first Forward Operating Location (FOL) on the North Slope of Alaska. The FOL conducted the full range of Coast Guard missions in the Arctic during the first two weeks of August. Comprised of helicopters, small boats, deployable communications gear and a recreational boating safety team, the focus of this “test bed” was to determine shore-response and security capabilities and requirements for future planning.

“Coast Guard Arctic missions in the next five to 10 years are poised to grow exponentially as the world continues its aggressive quest for new sources of energy. We must be ready,” said Allen. “Maintaining the status quo will be insufficient to protect the interests of our nation and its people.”

The Hamilton is a multi-mission cutter homeported in San Diego.

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