U.S. Coast Guard Takes 210-Foot Cutter Out of Service to Fill Manning Gaps

Courtesy USCG

Published Apr 10, 2024 10:25 PM by The Maritime Executive


On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard held a heritage recognition ceremony for the medium endurance cutter USCGC Dependable, which has been performing rescues and busting drug-runners for an astonishing 56 years. The event served the purpose of a decommissioning, though not in name: Dependable will be laid up in an inactive shipyard status until her well-earned formal retirement, and her crew will transfer to new units in order to cover the service's manning shortfall

Dependable was commissioned in 1968 at American Ship Building in Lorain, Ohio and underwent a deep overhaul in 1995-7. Over the course of her long service life, she racked up a string of drug bust successes, including the seizure of 120 tons of marijuana aboard a freighter in 1978. She was on scene to respond for the Mariel Boatlift in 1980 and the Haitian earthquake of 2010, and participated in multiple migrant-interdiction missions. On her final patrol at the end of last year, her crew saved 33 people aboard a 25-foot boat in seas of up to 12 feet off the coast of Haiti. 

The Offshore Patrol Cutter procurement program will gradually deliver replacements for Dependable and her long-serving sister ships. In the meantime, the Coast Guard has decided to begin taking three of them off of front-line duty without waiting. The service is short on personnel, and its leaders want to operate cutters with whole crews instead of gapping billets. 

“The Coast Guard cannot maintain the same level of operations with our current shortfall – we cannot do the same with less,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Heath Jones in a statement last year. “Conducting our missions is often inherently dangerous, and doing so without enough crew puts our members and the American public at increased risk.”

For Dependable, this alignment policy means an earlier retirement - but early is relative. Internationally, seagoing ships usually retire by 25 and rarely outlast their 40th year. 56 years is remarkable for a hardworking law enforcement vessel like Dependable

“This is a fine ship, built long ago by American shipbuilders, tradesmen, and craftsmen,” said Vice Admiral Kevin Lunday, Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “But a ship doesn’t become a Coast Guard cutter because we paint it white and put a racing stripe on the side. It becomes a cutter when we breathe life into it by crewing it with the finest young women and men from across these United States."