A series of equipment casualties on a 49-year-old Coast Guard cutter forced an early end to its counter-narcotics patrol, underlining the needs behind the Coast Guard’s ongoing fleet recapitalization.
The Alert, one of 14 remaining 210’x34’x10’6” Reliance-class medium endurance cutters, returned to its homeport at Astoria, Ore., Friday after a 39-day deployment in the Eastern Pacific, according to Coast Guard officials. The Alert had departed Feb. 5 and almost immediately began suffering engineering malfunctions – some 35 in all, over just the first 19 days at sea.
Problems cropped up in the Alert’s radar, propulsion and fuel systems. The topper was a crankcase explosion in one of the Alco 16V-251 diesel mains, resulting from a seized oil pump. That required a week-long layover in Panama while the crew inspected the engine, and ultimately a decision to end the patrol early, said Coast Guard officials.