Delivery of the US Coast Guard cutter Gallatin to the Nigerian Navy moved a step closer on Monday when the vessel was decommissioned after 45 years of service.
During a ceremony at its home base of Charleston, South Carolina, the vessel was formally transferred to the Nigerian Navy. Personnel from the Nigerian Navy are already in Charleston for training on the vessel prior to its delivery voyage.
The Navy Times said Gallatin has had a busy career, covering such missions as maritime law enforcement, humanitarian relief, search and rescue and ambassadorial duties. Last year the cutter seized several tons of cocaine being smuggled from Latin America and the Caribbean. Apart from drug missions, Gallatin was involved in dealing with the mass migration of 27 000 Cubans in 1994; the search for the crew of the HMS Bounty during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and in responding to the St Vincent volcano eruption of 1979.
The 3 250 ton vessel is the last high endurance cutter on the East Coast to be commissioned, although there are seven still in service on America’s West Coast. Gallatin will be replaced by a more modern cutter, the USCGC Hamilton, which requires only 120 crew compared to the 170 needed for the elderly Gallatin.
The 115 metre long 3 250 ton Gallatin is a member of the Hamilton class – the Nigerian Navy has already taken delivery of the Hamilton class cutter Chase (now NNS Thunder), which was commissioned in January 2012. Other vessels received from the United States include the NNS Obula, Nwamba, Kyanwa and Ologbo.
Although an elderly vessel, NNS Thunder was the only African naval ship to participate in the Royal Australian Navy Centenary International Fleet Review, sailing to Australia in August 2013 and returning in December.
Gallatin, introduced into 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.
Last year Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, said Gallatin, as well as the US Navy Survey Ship John McDonnell also destined for the Nigerian Navy, would be inspected between May and August 2014.
The USNS John McDonnell 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.
The Nigerian Navy has also sent personnel to China to take delivery of the first of two P-18N corvettes built by the China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC). The first vessel was launched in January and the hull of the second vessel will arrive in Nigeria later this year where it will be completed by the Nigerian Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt. 50-70% of the second ship will be constructed in Nigeria to enhance local capability.
Delivery of the first vessel, F91, is expected in the middle of this year and the second vessel (F92) is expected to be completed either late this year or early 2015.
Nigeria ordered the two Chinese vessels in April 2012 and construction began that October. The vessels are based on the Type 056 corvette in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The vessels are 95 metres long, with a draft of 3.5 metres. They are powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines, giving a speed of 21 knots, and are armed with one 76 mm and two 30 mm guns. Crew complement will be 70 sailors and endurance 20 days. They will be able to carry and support a helicopter off a rear deck.