The former United States Coast Guard cutter USCGS Gallatin, now called NNS Okpabana, has arrived in Nigeria, after being handed over to the Nigerian Navy in May 2014.
The vessel arrived in Nigerian waters on January 2, joining its sister ship NNS Thunder, another Hamilton class cutter donated to Nigeria by the United States. The Nigerian Navy spent $8.5 million refurbishing the 45 year old ship, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.
At its reception in Lagos, Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin said that “it was the successes recorded by NNS Thunder in curtailing threats in our maritime domain and the larger Gulf of Guinea region, with the confidence reposed in our country by the USA, that made it possible to acquire NNS Okpabana. The addition of this ship into the NN [Nigerian Navy] fleet will certainly bolster our zeal to end the menace in our maritime domain and the region, as well as support the regional and global effort to eliminate transnational maritime threats. This nation has always requested the navy to do more and with this, the government recognises that there must be needed platform for the navy to do its job well.”
US Consul General in Lagos, Jeffrey Hawkins said “The United States is pleased to see the expanding capabilities of Nigerian Navy with the arrival of this second high endurance cutter. Many of the region’s security challenges come from the sea, and this powerful new naval platform will significantly enhance Nigeria’s ability to control the maritime environment. The Okpabana, like the Thunder before her, strongly demonstrates in steel grey, America’s commitment to enhancing Nigeria’s security.”
Jibrin said the NNS Okpabana would be used to combat maritime crimes such as piracy, oil theft, smuggling, illegal fishing and arms smuggling.
Jibrin also noted that President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has invested a large amount of money in recapitalising the Navy fleet, such as through the acquisition of two offshore patrol vessels from China. Jibrin said that China is also assisting with the upgrade of the Port Harcourt shipyard, with a Chinese team expected in Nigeria by the first quarter of this year.
The 115 metre long 3 250 ton Gallatin is a member of the Hamilton class. Gallatin, introduced into US Coast Guard service in 1968, is equipped with a helicopter flight deck, retractable hangar and a fast boat. The High Endurance Cutter has four main engines and can be driven by either twin diesel engines or twin gas turbines via two controllable-pitch propellers.
The Nigerian Navy is due to take delivery of another ex-US vessel, the US Navy Survey Ship John McDonnell. This vessel was deactivated on August 25, 2010, as the US Navy streamlined survey operations. The 63 metre, 2 054 ton oceanographic survey vessel can launch two 34 foot launches. Other vessels received from the United States include the NNS Obula, Nwamba, Kyanwa and Ologbo.