52-Year-Old Coast Guard Cutter Heads to Bahrain for Second Career

Image courtesy USCG

Published Aug 21, 2020 7:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the 52-year-old cutter Mellon during a ceremony Thursday at Coast Guard Base Seattle. Mellon was one of the Coast Guard's two remaining Hamilton-class high endurance cutters, which are being replaced by the new Legend-class national security cutters as the service's main long-range asset.

Mellon's keel was laid on July 25, 1966, at Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans. She was launched the following year and commissioned on January 9, 1968. The cutter was named after Andrew W. Mellon, who served as treasury secretary from 1921-1932.

Over the past 52 years, Mellon's crews conducted operations all over the world. From 1969 through 1972, Mellon's crews served in the Vietnam War, performing naval gunfire support missions and patrolling Southeast Asian waters to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Vietnam. Mellon's war service earned the ship the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation.

In the late-1970s and 1980s, the Mellon responded to multiple major search and rescue operations. In 1974, she played a key role in the rescue of crew members from the Italian supertanker Giovanna Lolli-Ghetti, which sank off Hawaii after an explosion and fire. In 1980, Mellon helped rescue 510 passengers and crew who had been evacuated into lifecrafts from the burning cruise ship Prinsendam in the Gulf of Alaska.

In 1985, Mellon underwent a life-extension overhaul, and she was recommissioned in 1989. The cutter established several Coast Guard firsts, including the first of five Hamilton-class high endurance cutters to have a Harpoon anti-ship missile system installed. Mellon was also the first - and only - Coast Guard cutter to test-fire a Harpoon missile.

Mellon has been a familiar and welcome presence on the U.S. West Coast for decades. She was originally homeported in Honolulu, and she transitioned to Seattle in 1981. During her regular Bering Sea patrols, Mellon conducted search and rescue operations and enforced the regulations that keep Alaska's fisheries productive and safe. Off the Pacific coast of Central America, Mellon's boarding teams routinely interdicted drug smugglers on the high seas.

During the cutter's last year in service, 20 officers and 160 enlisted crew members patrolled the Bering Sea and the Northern Pacific near Japan for more than 230 days, conducting 100 safety and fisheries boardings of U.S.-, Chinese-, Korean-, Japanese- and Russian-flagged fishing vessels and participating in five search-and-rescue cases.

"It has truly been an honor to serve as the final commanding officer for Coast Guard Cutter Mellon," said Capt. Jonathan Musman. "The officers, chiefs and crew for this final year have been truly remarkable and can hold their heads high as they operated Mellon with distinction across the North Pacific on three deployments serving our nation. The reliability of the cutter is a product of years and years of properly taking care of this beloved [ship]."

The decommissioning does not mean that Mellon will retire. “While Mellon’s service to the U.S. Coast Guard now ends, the ship will continue its legacy of good maritime governance after transfer to the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Royal Naval Force,” said Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, deputy commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area.