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Coast Guard Tightening Response and Upping Vessel Safety in Nome

A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew loads a Station Valdez 25-foot Response Boat - Small at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, July 30, 2014. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

A U.S. Coast Guard response boat is sitting in the Nome harbor, streamlining response operations and conducting safety boardings.

The USCG flew in the vessel—a “25-foot response boat small”— on Wednesday from Valdez on a C-130 aircraft.

“So we wanted to bring the small boat up here,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant Devuyst, “which we did we’ve done before, to test our capabilities, to see how hard it is to get it here, as well as the crew, to see what we have to do to get it into the water here.”

The venture is part of the Coast Guard’s 2014 Arctic Shield, an operation to increase the branch’s presence in the Arctic as marine traffic escalates.

A seven-person crew is accompanying the response boat, a vessel used to conduct search and rescue, tuggings, and boardings, and often deployed in situations inaccessible to the Coast Guard’s larger cutters.

With the response boats being stationed in Valdez, Juneau, and Ketchikan— hundreds of miles from Western Alaska— part of the vessel’s mission in Nome is streamlining response logistics in case of an emergency.

“There are more boaters out here, all types of different vessels,” explained Devuyst. “We don’t have a permanent base here that’s able to perform our missions such as search and rescue. So we’re making sure that we can get our assets here to perform those missions.”

At the same time, the Coast Guard is working to prevent these response missions. Over the next two weeks, the Coast Guard will be conducting boardings around Nome to inspect onboard safety gear and look for equipment such as lifejackets, fire extinguishers, and communication devices.

While these boardings are going on, the Coast Guard will also be holding voluntary safety inspections, beginning this weekend and running through next Friday. Call the Nome harbor to sign up for an appointment.