The USCG Cutter That Led the 9-11 Sealift May be Sold to Indonesia

Courtesy USCGC Adak Museum / USCG

Published May 6, 2021 12:41 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Indonesia Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla) is "not interested" in buying USCGC Adak, a historically-significant U.S. Coast Guard cutter which served as the command center for the September 11 sealift evacuation of Manhattan. 

The Adak was one of the first Coast Guard vessels to arrive on scene after the attacks on the World Trade Center, and her crew took on the role of coordinating an ad-hoc sealift evacuation of over 500,000 people from Lower Manhattan - the largest sealift operation in history. Her crew received the Secretary of Transportation's Outstanding Unit Award for their role in this unprecedented lifesaving effort. 

While she has historical significance, the Adak is not wanted by the U.S. Coast Guard's Indonesian counterparts. "I prefer to build my own ships in Indonesia," said Baklama's chief, Vice Adm. Aan Kurnia, in a statement to CNN last week. "I'm . . . not interested in used vessels."

However, the U.S. government's arrangement to sell the Adak to Indonesia does not run through Baklama, according to the New York Post, but through the Indonesian Navy - a separate entity housed under Indonesia's department of defense. 

If the Indonesian Navy is the intended recipient, Baklama's views may not have bearing on the sale, but Adm. Kurnia's statement offers hope to a group of Coast Guard veterans who would prefer to see the Adak return stateside to serve as a museum ship. 

The Adak is currently posted in the Persian Gulf on maritime security duty, and she will be decommissioned in July. A non-profit organization, the USCGC Adak Museum, has mounted a campaign to bring the vessel back to the U.S. to serve as a 9-11 memorial and educational platform in Tampa Bay. So far, the group has collected more than 11,000 signatures on a petition to halt the sale. The effort has received support from Congressmen Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who have written to the State Department to request that the Adak be returned to the United States. The vessel's fate is particularly significant this year, as this September will mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks. 

"There are several other cutters that could be provided to Indonesia instead of the Adak, and we believe that the Adak needs to come home. The Adak will help to tell the story of those who did everything they could to make sure others could live on 9/11," said the USCGC Adak Museum in a petition. 

The USCGC Adak is an Island-class patrol boat built in 1989 and originally home-ported at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She was the first Coast Guard vessel on scene after the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, and she was among the first to arrive off Lower Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center - even though her steering controls had to be jury-rigged to get under way. Under the command of Lt. Sean MacKenzie, she served as the Coast Guard's on-scene command center in New York Harbor until the arrival of the medium-endurance cutter Tahoma that night.