The Charleston-based Coast Guard Cutter Dallas will be officially transferred to the Philippines military today in a ceremonial step toward putting the vessel in the service of a distant Pacific ally.
Some of the Filipino government’s top brass are expected to be dockside in North Charleston when the event begins, at 1 p.m., along the Cooper River waterfront.
The change-over comes at a critical time in the Far East where confrontations with China, pirates and terror groups remain potential threats.
The Dallas is being transferred — without charge — after a 45-year career in U.S. service but amid the realization it had become too costly to maintain.
It’s last mission ended in February when it returned from the Caribbean, scoring two major drug busts that netted 4,000 pounds of cocaine and 940 pounds of marijuana.
Both cases involved “go-fast” speedboats.
Coast Guard public affairs Lt. Cmdr. Jamie C. Frederick said the ceremony is just a part of the process. Filipino crews are being trained and advised on the ship’s operations, and eventually will take complete control, he said.
Engineering, navigation — “everything that it takes to operate a 378-foot cutter,” he said.
Transferring the flag to a friendly nation also saves the federal government about $10 million, Frederick said, which is what it would have cost to make the Dallas suitable as an offshore reef.
Today’s schedule calls for Philippines Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa to formally accept delivery of the vessel. Also on hand will be Rear Adm. Jose Luis Alano, Philippines fleet commander.
Rear Adm. John Korn, assistant commandant for acquisition with the Coast Guard, will be the presiding U.S. officer.
“As Dallas returns to the Southeast Asian waters that it plied at the beginning of its Coast Guard career, I know it will serve the Philippines as faithfully and capably as it served America,” Korn said in a media release.
The boat’s new name will be the Ramon Alcaraz, to honor a Filipino naval officer who captained a torpedo boat in some of the earliest engagements with the Japanese at the start of World War II.
His vessel reportedly shot down three enemy planes above Manila Bay.
Published reports say America’s surplus ships have already had an impact in the far Pacific.
Another U.S. cutter previously transferred to the Philippines figured in the stand-off with Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal.
The transfer comes during a time of transition for the Coast Guard. While the Dallas’ sister cutter ship, the Gallatin, will remain in service in Charleston, there are no replacement plans for the Dallas here.
The Coast Guard is in the process of updating its aging fleet of 12 high-endurance cutters with a new generation of eight National Security Cutters. They will come on line in the coming years.