(LOCKPORT, La.) — Bollinger Shipyards has delivered USCGC Melvin Bell to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Fla. This is the 181st vessel Bollinger has delivered to the Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 55th fast response cutter (FRC) delivered under the current program.
“We’re incredibly proud to deliver the USCGC Melvin Bell, the final of six fast response cutters to be home-ported in Boston, the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Bollinger President and CEO Ben Bordelon. “We’re confident that pound for pound, the quality and capabilities of the FRC platform are unmatched and that this vessel will outperform its mission requirements and expectations in the challenging conditions where it will operate in the North Atlantic.”
USCGC Melvin Bell will be the sixth of six FRCs to be home-ported in Sector Boston, which is known as the birthplace of the Coast Guard. The sector is responsible for coastal safety, security and environmental protection from the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border southward to Plymouth, Mass., out to 200 nautical miles offshore.
Sector Boston directs over 1,500 active duty, reserve and auxiliary members whose mission is to protect and secure vital infrastructure, rescue mariners in peril at sea, enforce federal law, maintain navigable waterways, and respond to all hazards impacting the maritime transportation system and coastal region.
The Coast Guard’s FY2024 Unfunded Priorities List includes procuring four more FRCs (which would be the 66th through 69th vessels in the program) to provide increased Coast Guard presence and engagement with allied and partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Earlier this year, Adm. Linda Fagan, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said, “The Indo-Pacific is clearly a consequential region for America’s future. The United States Indo-Pacific Strategy identifies an expanded role for the U.S. Coast Guard as a top administration priority as we seek to ensure a region that is free and open. The U.S. Coast Guard will continue its long history of operational presence in the region with additional cutter patrols and deployable specialized forces.”
Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished themselves in the line of duty. Bell, a minority pioneer and Pacific war hero, was a patriot whose distinguished career in service of his country spanned 65 years in military and civil service.
During his active-duty career, Bell held many distinctions. In 1943, he became the first Pacific Islander advanced to chief petty officer. He later held the distinction of a dual rating as chief radioman and chief electronics technician. In 1958, he became the first minority master chief in the history of the Coast Guard.
His decorations included the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (five awards), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal and Victory World War II Medal.
FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands — a 4,400-nm trip from their home port. Measuring in at 154 feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, C4ISR suite (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.
– Bollinger Shipyards