The Coast Guard National Security Cutter Waesche on Sunday suffered fires aboard the ship during a deployment in support of the U.S. Navy and arrived in port in Japan on Tuesday for an inspection and potential repairs, the Coast Guard said late Tuesday night.
The fires were discovered in the ship’s exhaust stack and nearby spaces after black smoke was discovered.
The incident is the second major casualty for a Coast Guard ship in just over a month after the service’s sole medium polar icebreaker had to abort its annual scientific mission to the Arctic in August following an onboard fire that put one of its propulsion motors out of service. The Healy is currently at its homeport in Seattle and is awaiting a trip to a drydock for repairs.
In February 2019, the Coast Guard’s only heavy polar icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out in its incinerator room that took two hours to extinguish. The fire occurred after the ship had completed an annual ice breaking and resupply mission to Antarctica.
The fire aboard Waesche was extinguished in 90 minutes and five crew members reported minor injuries while battling the blaze.
“The rapid response and courageous efforts from crewmembers aboard Waesche to quickly contain and extinguish the fire are a testament to the bravery and skill of this crew,” Capt. Jason Ryan, commanding officer of the 418-foot ship, said in a statement.
Waesche, which was delivered in 2009 by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] and commissioned in 2010, left its homeport of Alameda, Calif., in August in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet as part of routine presence operations in the Indo-Pacific theater. Waesche was the second NSC built. The Coast Guard has contracted with HII for 11 of the ships.
The ship is currently in Yokosuka, Japan, a U.S. Navy base that includes Naval ship repair facilities.
A Coast Guard spokesman told Defense Daily that a mishap investigation is underway and that results should begin to emerge in the coming week to help determine the necessary repairs and how it will impact Waesche and its deployment. The 418-foot Legend-class cutter had been operating under tactical control of the 7th Fleet for about a week before the fire.
In 2019 the National Security Cutters Bertholf and Stratton operated under control of the 7th Fleet in the Western Pacific, enforcing United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea by monitoring and gathering intelligence on vessels. The ships also conducted professional exchanges and capacity building exercises with partners in the region.