NNS Thunder departs California for Nigeria


The former US Coast Guard cutter Chase has departed the United States for her new home in Nigeria. The NNS Thunder, as she is now known, was transferred to the Nigerian Navy in a formal ceremony on May 13 and underwent a refit prior to her trans-Atlantic voyage.

The Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Thunder left Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California, yesterday. Nigerian Minister of State and Defence Erelu Olusola Obada was present at the departure ceremony.

The Chase had been declared as surplus by the US Coast Guard, who said that donating the vessel to Nigeria had saved them US$10 million in disposal costs. The vessel was refitted and a new crew trained.

The Hamilton class High Endurance Cutter was laid down on October 26, 1966 at Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans; launched on May 20, 1967 and commissioned on March 11, 1968. The 115 m, 3250-ton cutters is armed with a 76 mm OTO Melera gun and decommissioned on March 29 this year in San Diego. She was transferred as an excess defence article under the US Foreign Assistance Act. One of her sister ships, the Morgenthau, is still based in Alameda, while another was donated to the Philippines.

The class has a crossing range of 9 600 nautical miles (17 800 km) at 20 knots (40 km/h). Top speed is 28 knots. Fitted with a 24 m flight deck – but no hangar – the ship is capable of handling a medium helicopter.

At the NNS Thunder’s renaming ceremony earlier this year Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Adebowale Adefuye, said the ship would be put to use in the Gulf of Guinea region to tackle pirates, illegal oil bunkerers, smugglers and other criminals in order to secure the nation’s offshore oil wealth.

Nigeria has been strengthening its military capabilities over the years and has paid particular attention to improving security in the Niger Delta and off its 780 kilometre long coast, where it has numerous oil installations. In September Nigeria and Benin began joint anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Nigerian Navy has received 10 donated vessels to enhance operations in the Niger Delta. The navy has also established new base in Lokoja known as NNS Lugard and another in Ikot Abasi known as NNS Jubilee.

The force is seeking government approval to acquire up to 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next ten years to police the nation’s territorial waterways and Gulf of Guinea.

In March 2007 it signed a US$73 million contract for two ATR 42MP maritime patrol aircraft to join its Dornier 128s. The first ATR was delivered in December 2009 and the second in March last year.