Coast Guard's oldest cutter to see last sail in '07

Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

KODIAK - The Kodiak-based cutter Storis, oldest in the Coast Guard fleet, will be decommissioned in 2007, ending the vessel's 50-year history in Alaska.

The Coast Guard plans to send the 387-foot cutter Munro, homeported in Alameda, Calif., to fill in for Storis. A new offshore patrol ship scheduled to arrive at Kodiak in 2011 will replace Storis, affectionately known as "Queen of the Fleet."

Cost of moving the Munro north and decommissioning the Storis is estimated at $4.7 million. The Alameda station is receiving a new National Security cutter, leaving no room for the Munro.

Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, said the 230-foot cutter, once used to chart the Northwest Passage and patrol the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska and North Pacific, had earned an honored place in history since its construction in 1941.

Decommissioning is aimed at modernizing the fleet in favor of faster, more capable cutters and aircraft. Replacement parts for vintage equipment aboard the Storis has become expensive.

"Storis has been a gallant workhorse for the Coast Guard since World War II," said Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area. The cutter once led patrols in the North Atlantic around Greenland, to keep the Nazis from building weather stations in the area.

Originally a light icebreaker, the cutter's name is Scandinavian, from an Eskimo word "sirorssuit," meaning "great ice."

The Munro is a 34-year-old flight-deck equipped, high-endurance cutter with a crew of 20 officers and 150 enlisted personnel; the Storis has a crew of 12 officers and 74 enlisted personnel.

Coast Guard spokesman Paul Roszkowski said law enforcement and search-and-rescue missions would be enhanced because the Munro is faster than the Storis and has a flight deck.

The Coast Guard has begun studying environmental and economic effects of the reshuffle to help set a timeline for decommissioning.

In 1957 the Storis, along with U.S. Coast Guard cutters Bramble and SPAR, namesake of the SPAR currently stationed in Kodiak, charted a deep-draft channel through the Arctic Ocean, ending the a 450-year search for a Northwest Passage for large ships to sail across the top of North America. The Storis became the first U.S.-registered ship to circumnavigate North America.

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