US Coast Guard cutter heads for overhaul, new homeport

USCGC Kukui (WLB 203) departing from Sand Island, Hawaii, Jan. 9, 2017. Photo: US Coast Guard

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Kukui left its homeport of Sand Island in Honolulu one last time on January 9, exactly 19 years to the day after its commissioning.

The ship and its crew of 46 are sailing the cutter to the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore for its regular scheduled midlife maintenance.

When Kukui leaves the yards, it will have a new crew and will be voyaging to a new homeport in Sitka, Alaska.

“The Kukui has a long history in Hawaii and the surrounding South Pacific. Because of that, it is especially sad to see it go,” said Lt. j.g. Bethany Gollin, Kukui operations department. “This juniper class, 225-foot cutter is the third vessel to bare the Kukui name in the Hawaiian Islands.”

The first cutter Kukui was built by the New York Shipping Company in 1908. In 1941, when the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, the 190-foot buoy tender’s crew was conducting standard in-port weekend duties, unarmed and moored to Pier Four in Honolulu Harbor.

In 1946, a new 339-foot cargo ship was name Kukui and came to Hawaii where it served until 1972. Its crew constructed long range navigation stations, also known as LORAN, and provided support to Pacific Islanders in remote locations such as the delivery of food, medicine and building materials. A truly unique vessel, the second Kukui was decommissioned in 1972 and sold to the Philippine navy. It was renamed Mactan and homeported in Subic Bay.

Commissioned on Jan. 9, 1998, the current Kukui continued the heritage started so many years ago by its predecessors. It is one of a fleet of sea going buoy tenders serving around the nation.

With the Kukui going to its midlife maintenance, the district will temporarily be reduced to two buoy tenders, an aids to navigation team and the regional dive locker to maintain aids throughout the region. Careful planning and prioritization of ATON projects will be employed during the gap in cutter coverage to minimize the impact of the asset’s absence.


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