Charleston's new heavy duty Coast Guard cutter is expected to arrive in port this November once all its test trials are over.
The National Security Cutter Hamilton will take up its mooring along the Cooper River in North Charleston for duties that include pursuing Caribbean drug smuggling and rescue/humanitarian efforts wherever they arise.
Delivery date to the Coast Guard is set for Sept. 15, with the local commissioning ceremony slated for Dec. 6.
In-between will be more testing, trials and training for the crew.
The 418-foot ship was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries' Ingalls Shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss. While it is the fourth of eight National Security cutters approved by Congress, it is the first to be based on the Atlantic Coast.
The new fleet of security cutters are designed to replace the 378-foot high-endurance vessels that had entered into Coast Guard service during the 1960s. Those ships are considered to be outdated for American use though several of them have been given new life in the service of countries considered friendly to the U.S.
For instance, the previously Charleston-based Coast Guard cutter Gallatin was transferred to the Nigerian navy where it is now known as the NNS Okpabana. And the cutter Dallas, which was also home-ported in Charleston until a short while ago, was given to the government of the Philippines where it was renamed the Ramon Alcaraz.
The new cutters are 418 feet long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days and a crew of 120 - or about 50 fewer crewmen than were needed on the Gallatin.
The Charleston-bound ship is named for Alexander Hamilton, the former treasury secretary credited for being the founder of what would become the U.S. Coast Guard.
Commander Alma Certa of Coast Guard Group Charleston said the Hamilton's crew is currently in Mississippi undergoing ship training.
"For Charleston, the impact is positive," she said, pointing to the economic benefit the new crew and their families will bring to the region.
The Hamilton is just the start. Charleston is slated to get a second new home-ported vessel next year when the cutter Joshua James goes on line. It is expected to arrive in late summer 2015.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551