Kukui Goes a Long Way to Perform Duties

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (02/13/99)
By Ray Pendleton

If you read Water Ways last week, you may remember it was devoted to the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui, based at the Sand Island station in Honolulu Harbor, and its primary mission of maintaining buoys, our floating aids to navigation.

Thanks to Rear Admiral Jim McClelland, Commander of the 14th C.G. District, I and perhaps a dozen others had earlier been invited to go to sea aboard this 225-foot, state-of-the-art buoy tender for a demonstration of several of the Coast Guard's offshore functions.

So, along with watching how a harbor-entrance buoy is removed and replaced, we were aboard Kukui to learn other aspects of the Coast Guard's operations in the Pacific.

For Kukui, not only is it charged with the responsibility of buoy maintenance in the Hawaiian Island chain, covering 1,300 miles, from the Big Island to Midway, but it has several other missions.

Considered a multi-mission platform by the Coast Guard, Kukui is also capable of performing blue water search and rescue, law enforcement, national defense and environmental protection. This last mission is enhanced by its advanced oil-skimming Shipboard Oil Recovery System.

In conducting the above duties, Kukui has one of the largest individual operating areas covered by the Coast Guard, some 60,000 square miles of mostly open ocean. It patrols the 200-mile "exclusive economic zones," or EEZs of such far-flung specks of land as Jarvis, Howland and Baker islands, and Johnston and Palmyra atolls.

Of course, once you understand the immensity of the 14th Coast Guard District, Kukui 's operating area is easier to grasp. Admiral McClelland filled us in with the facts.

With its headquarters in Honolulu, the 14th District - the Coast Guard's largest -covers nearly 13 million square miles, an area three times larger than the continental U.S. It ranges from a point midway between Hawai`i and the North American continent, to the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Within this vast area, the Coast Guard, in conjunction with the Air Force, operates the only Joint Rescue Coordination Center for long-range searches. They also aid Asia-Pacific nations with search and rescue, law enforcement, disaster assistance and pollution response.

Enforcement of marine fisheries laws within the U.S. Pacific EEZ - 43 percent of our nation's total - also comes under the 14th District's jurisdiction, as well as drug interdiction and the responsibility of combating illegal immigration in the Western Pacific.

The district has the following major resources currently available, besides Kukui , to conduct its operations: two 378-foot cutters, five 110-foot patrol boats, four HC-130H long-range surveillance aircraft and four HH-65A "Dolphin" short-range helicopters.

Couple that inventory with about 1,400 active duty personnel and you can see why the 14th District must frequently join forces with other military branches, government agencies and nations to accomplish its missions.

It should be no wonder that Admiral McClelland refers to those in his command as "some of the finest people in government service."

Giving the "Coasties" an aloha wave the next time you see them out on the water would probably go a long way in saying you agree with his assessment.

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

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