What do you do with a rat-infested, stateless pirate fishing vessel? Blow it up to show off the firepower of the Coast Guard's newest, toughest cutters, a U.S. senator says.
Crew from the Coast Guard cutter Munro seized the Bangun Perkasa, which was not operating under a national flag, 2,600 miles off Alaska in September after it was suspected of engaging in fishing with drift nets on the high seas, according to the Coast Guard. Drift net fishing is illegal because the nets indiscriminately kill massive amounts of fish and other marine life such as endangered whales and turtles.
The vessel was found to have been using 10 miles of drift nets and had 22 tons of squid and 30 shark carcasses aboard, the Coast Guard said. The fishing boat and its crew of 22 were towed to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Aleutian Islands.
And that's when the Coast Guard found evidence of rats on board.
Ships with rats aboard are not allowed into Alaska ports, so the Bangun Perkasa sits at anchor three miles out of Dutch Harbor. Its crew is in custody ashore.
But the rats are still aboard, and Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska says they should be dispatched to the deep along with the ship and its drift nets.
‚ÄúIt would send an unambiguous signal that pirate fishing is unacceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated.¬† It will prevent this rust bucket from ending up back on the market where it most likely would only fall into the hands of some other pirate," Begich said in a statement.
Shelling the vessel would also give the Coast Guard a chance to show off its newest ships, the National Security Cutters, the senator said.
‚ÄúIn addition to solving the rat problem, using the Bangun Perkasa for gunnery practice could demonstrate the advanced firepower of the Coast Guard‚Äôs new National Security Cutters,‚ÄĚ Begich said in his statement.
The Coast Guard deployed its first two National Security Cutters, the Bertholf, and the Waesche, last year. Three more are in the works. The new cutters replace 40-year-old High Endurance Cutters at a time when the service faces new missions.
The new cutters have a crew of 113, a range of 12,000 miles, a helicopter flight deck and small-boat launch platform, and their command-and-control systems permit increased interoperability with the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, the Coast Guard says.
In a release announcing the capture of the Bangun Perkasa, Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, the Coast Guard director of response policy, saluted the 40-year-old Munro and hailed the arrival of the new ships.
‚ÄúThis case demonstrates how our cutters and crews allow the United States to maintain constant vigil far from the U.S. mainland and reflects the value of having a maritime service that can protect U.S. interests including the environment, security and safety regionally and globally,‚ÄĚ the admiral said.
‚ÄúOur high endurance cutters routinely operate from South America to the Bering Sea conducting alien migrant interdiction operations, domestic fisheries protection, search and rescue, counternarcotics and homeland security operations for extended periods of time. The Munro, and cutters like it, are more than 40 years old and slated for replacement. National Security Cutters that are faster, better equipped, more durable, safer and more efficient than their predecessor, will continue to ensure U.S. interests are protected today and for decades to come.‚ÄĚ