US Coast Guard Retires 52-Year Old Cutter With Distinguished Career

US Coast Guard to retire 52 year old cutter after distinguished career
Coast Guard Cutter Mellon patrolling off Kodiak Alaska in March 2020 - USCG photo by PA1 Keith Alholm

Published Jul 20, 2020 6:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard’s 52-year old cutter Mellon completed its final patrol in a long and distinguished career. The Mellon was one of the last remaining 378-foot high endurance cutters built for extended offshore patrols with capabilities ranging from helicopter operations to pursuit boat. 

The cutter embarked on her final patrol departing Seattle on April 17 to conduct missions throughout the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea. During the patrol, the 150-member crew conducted 38 law enforcement boardings, four search and rescue cases, and enforced federal regulations governing Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. She returned to her homeport on July 7.

The cutter was named for successful businessman and banker Andrew W. Mellon, who became the forty-ninth secretary of the U.S. treasury serving between 1921 and 1932. Mellon served under presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, as well as a year in the post of U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain.

The cutter’s keel was laid July 25 1966, and she was launched on February 11, 1967. Built at a cost of $14.5 million, the Mellon was commissioned on January 9, 1968 becoming the third member of the 378-foot high-endurance class to be completed. During her long career, she participated in notable recuses, was briefly station in Vietnam, and in 1990 became the first and only Coast Guard cutter to be fitted with an anti-ship missile and anti-submarine warfare capabilities as part of a pilot program.

 Cutter Mellon July 10, 2020 at US Coast Guard Base Kodiak's fuel pier in Kodiak, Alaska - U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Arredondo

The Mellon was originally homeported in Honolulu and spent 12 years patrolling the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to Alaska before transferring to Seattle in 1981. From her homeport in Seattle she patrolled areas in the North Pacific from the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands into the Bering Sea. She also spent three months of the year engaged in training and exercises with the U.S. Navy off the coast of Southern California.

Early in her career, the cutter was extensively damaged during an explosion while docked at the Dillingham Shipyard for repairs and maintenance on September 7, 1971. One civilian who was installing insulation was killed and there was significant damage to the vessel, included buckling of the deck, hull and frame. Again, in 1972 she was damaged when she touched bottom, damaging her sonar dome and bow thruster while unmooring in Kodiak Harbor.

Among the rescues she was involved in during her career, in 1974 the Mellon 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. The rescue included managing close cooperation between crews and vessels from Norway, Russia and the United States. Again in 1982, the Mellon was involved in notable rescue operations including passengers and crew who have been evacuated into lifecrafts from the burning cruise ship the Prinsendam, as well as later saving four crash survivors from a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft on Attu Island.

The Mellon and its crew received awards include the Meritorious Unit Commendation for operations conducted between June 28, 1975, and February 2, 1976 which included their response to four search and rescue cases, investigating and disproving allegations of violations of the Unimak Island Crab Sanctuary. The cuttter's crew also reported to authorities the illegal discharge of oil into the sea by two Russian trawlers. 

The U.S. Coast Guard has scheduled the Mellon for decommissioning on August 20, 2020.