US donated high endurance 115-metre cutter commissioned as SLNS Vijayabahu
COLOMBO – The former US Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Munro, donated to Sri Lanka Navy by the United States was commissioned as SLNS Vijayabahu at the Colombo Harbour on Tuesday (22), in a ceremony attended by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung.
The ship, was donated to Sri Lanka on October 26, 2021 as part of the United States’ continuing commitment to strengthen Sri Lanka’s ability to protect its maritime sovereignty and security. Vijayabahu is the third ship donated by the United States to the Sri Lanka Navy and is preceded by the Gajabahu in 2018 and the Samudura in 2004, which continue to patrol the nation’s waters.
A statement from the US embassy in Sri Lanka said Vijayabahu, a former Hamilton-class high-endurance 115-metre cutter, had undertaken one of the longest voyages in Sri Lankan naval history embarking from Seattle, Washington, on September 3 and arriving in Colombo on November 2, 2022.
Viewing the commissioning ceremony with Sri Lankan dignitaries, including Secretary to the Minister of Defence Kamal Gunaratne, and the Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, Ambassador Chung extended her appreciation to the ship’s officers and sailors for their skilful handling of the ship during the voyage.
The new vessel is capable of performing wide-ranging operations that include conservation of marine resources, search and rescue of naval and fishing vessels in distress and interdiction of drug and weapons smuggling among other crucial functions in Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is seven times the size of the land area.
In its former role, the then-Douglas Munro enforced fishing regulations in Alaskan waters, seized trawlers engaged in illegal practices and interdicted 11.5 tonnes of cocaine off the coast of Mexico, one of the largest hauls in the history of the US Coast Guard. After the 2004 tsunami, the cutter provided food and water to Indonesians and later seized a vessel overtaken by pirates off the Horn of Africa. The ship also rescued survivors of numerous shipwrecks in dangerous and frigid waters off the Alaskan coast.
The transfer of the vessel was just one point in a long history of cooperation between Sri Lanka and the United States in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region, the statement noted, adding that the US was committed to supporting Sri Lanka’s efforts to protect its sea lanes, which are vital to alleviating the current economic crisis.
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