Face masks and social distancing were much in evidence when the Coast Guard and Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) authenticated the keel for the first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), Argus, at a ceremony held April 28 in Panama City, Fla.
The keel authentication, a time-honored tradition in shipbuilding, was conducted by Joey D’Isernia, president of ESG, and Capt. Andrew Meverden, commanding officer of Coast Guard Project Resident Office Panama City. Bradley Remick, a welder with ESG, used a welding torch to apply the initials of the sponsor, retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Beverly Kelley, to the ceremonial plate, which declares the keel of Argus to be “truly and fairly laid”.
Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, and Kelley provided recorded remarks to mark the milestone.
“The steel joined here today is unlike any you or I have seen before,” said Mr. D’Isernia in his remarks. “This steel has been ravaged by 162 mph winds, generated by the third most powerful hurricane to make landfall in this country’s history. This steel has borne witness to a Pandemic that has caused fear and shaken our core. But through all this, it remains sturdy, it remains resilient, and today it will join with other steel to become stronger, more defined, and more resolute. Today is representative of how we build, and of unwavering resolve in the face of adversity for a Coast Guard and a nation that deserves nothing less.”
The sponsor of Argus, Captain Kelley, received her commission in 1976. In 1979, she became the first woman to command a military vessel, Coast Guard Cutter Cape Newhagen, a 95-foot Cape Class patrol boat. During her distinguished career, Kelley also served as commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutters Northland in 1996 and Boutwell in 2000, also making her the first woman to command a medium endurance cutter and high endurance cutter. Kelley retired from military service in 2006.
The first OPC is named for the Revenue Cutter Argus, which was one of the first ten ships assigned to the United States Revenue Cutter Service, a predecessor service to the United States Coast Guard. Revenue Cutter Argus began thirteen years of service to the newly formed United States of America in 1791. Of the ten original cutters assigned to the Revenue Cutter Service, Argus spent the longest time in service.
Delivery of Argus is scheduled for 2022. The Coast Guard ordered construction of the second OPC and acquisition of long lead-time material for the third OPC April 2. Delivery of the second OPC, to be named Chase, is scheduled to occur in 2023.
The OPC acquisition program meets the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports. The acquisition of 25 OPCs will complement the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters, fast response cutters and polar security cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered security strategy.