More than 500 guests, including Coast Guard Commandant ADM Bob Papp, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and several U.S. Senators were on hand on March 2 for the Coast Guard Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutter Fleet Dedication at Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, LA.
"Don't get me wrong. I like marine mammals and islands, but it is so much easier to get excited about a class of ships that will be named for Coast Guard heroes," said Chris Bollinger, Executive Vice President for New Construction, Bollinger Shipyards. The Sentinel Class cutters will be named in honor of enlisted Coast Guard heroes.
The first cutter of the Sentinel Class will be the Bernard C. Webber, which will be commissioned on April 14 and homeported in Miami, FL. The Coast Guard plans to build 58 of the class, which will be used for a wide range of Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, counter-drug operations, fisheries enforcement and homeland security. The 154-foot-long cutters will be able to reach a speed of 28 knots.
It is only the third time in Bollinger's 60-plus-year history that it has held a Fleet Dedication ceremony. Over the years, Bollinger has built all three classes of the Coast Guard patrol boats, including the Island Class patrol boats, which are being replaced with the Sentinel Class.
The ceremony emphasized the importance of the shipbuilding tradition in Louisiana and the relationship that the Coast Guard has forged with Bollinger over the years.
"It's not often you get to build the replacement vessels for those that you previously built," Bollinger Shipyards Chairman Boysie Bollinger told the audience.
At the ceremony, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) also pointed out the role that Bollinger Shipyards has played in the local economy in creating jobs.
Senator Landrieu, chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, was instrumental in acquiring $358 million in the FY 2012 federal spending bill for Bollinger Shipyards to build six FRCs for the Coast Guard.
“I was happy to join with Bollinger’s committed workforce for the dedication of this Fast Response Cutter fleet and the delivery to the Coast Guard of the first ship in its class," said Landrieu. "Acquiring funding for Bollinger Shipyards in this year’s budget was a high priority for me, as these exceptional ships will replace a portion of the Coast Guard’s aging fleet and ensure its ability to carry out critical lifesaving, law enforcement, and homeland security missions for decades to come. What an extraordinary contribution for Louisiana to make to our national security.”
What was particularly touching about the ceremony was that the ceremony was that all 500 guests were invited for a Louisiana-style lunch in the backyard at Charlotte A. Bollinger's house. Charlotte Bollinger is the Executive Vice President and Corporate Secretary for Bollinger Shipyards.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the search and rescue by BM1 Bernard Webber and his all-volunteer crew of three, who endured 60-foot seas and 70-knot wind near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a 36-foot motorized lifeboat to rescue 32 crewmen from the stricken tank vessel Pendleton.
On February 18, 1952, the Coast Guard rescued a combined 70 men from two T2 tankers, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton. Both vessels had split in half off of Cape Cod in heavy seas.