United States Coast Guard Rear Adm. Bruce Baffer transferred the vessel now known as the NNS Okpabana into the hands of the Nigerian navy on Wednesday. A crowd of Nigerian navy officers, coast guardsmen and other visitors gathered on a pier at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in North Charleston for a ceremony recognizing the transfer of ownership.(FLETC Courtesy Photo).
The former Coast Guard cutter Gallatin was transferred to theNigerian navy Wednesday at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centerin North Charleston. After a 45-year career spent sailing under U.S.colors, the former Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin on Wednesday wasofficially transferred into the hands of the Nigerian navy. The vesselis now known as the NNS Okpabana.
The cutter was decommissioned in March and a crew from the Africancountry arrived in Charleston for training.
On Wednesday, a crowd of Nigerian navy officers, coast guardsmen andother visitors gathered on a pier at the Federal Law EnforcementTraining Center in North Charleston for a ceremony recognizing thetransfer of ownership. Taps played hauntingly in the background as theU.S. flag was lowered and then replaced by that of Nigeria.
While addressing the gathered crowd, Coast Guard Rear Adm. BruceBaffer spoke of the triumphs achieved by the crew members who havesailed aboard the Gallatin over the years. The vessel was built in aLouisiana shipyard and commissioned in 1969. It aided in the seizure ofthousands of pounds of narcotics from international waters whileassisting in search and rescue missions, disaster relief and HomelandSecurity patrols, Baffer said.
The NNS Okpabana will serve a similar purpose under the Nigeriannavy, officials said.
"It's with a heavy heart that this proud ship will no longer sailamong our fleet of high-endurance cutters. But that sadness is temperedwith pride as she begins a new life under the capable watch ofprofessional sailers and now our close friends," Baffer said. "(Thevessel) will continue to execute humanitarian missions for Nigeria, animportant ally, security partner and collaborator in the struggleagainst global terror. ... Our two countries are united in our commongoals for peace, safety, security and freedom of the seas."
On behalf of his country, Nigerian Sen. Musiliu Obanikoro thankedthe Coast Guard for their consistent support. The additional vesselwill strengthen Nigeria's ability to combat terrorism and illegalactivity, he said.
"I am glad to know that American support has greatly enhanced thecapacity of the Nigerian navy," Obanikoro said.
The ceremony concluded as members of the Nigerian navy filed ontothe vessel taking command of the ship.
The Gallatin was the second of its type to be donated to theNigerian navy. The Coast Guard Cutter Chase was transferred in 2011 andrenamed NNS Thunder, officials said.
Later this year, a replacement ship from what's been described asthe next generation of Coast Guard national security cutters - theHamilton - will arrive in Charleston.
It will be the first of its kind on the East Coast with three othersalready pulling duty on the West Coast.
About 30 of the Gallatin's crew members will be staying inCharleston and assigned to the Hamilton. Others are being transferredand reassigned.
As a more modern ship, the Hamilton needs only about 120 crew, asopposed to the more than 170 needed for the Gallatin. The newer shipboasts updated machinery, navigation and electronics that need lesshuman observation, officials said.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.