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Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Newest Coast Guard cutter the biggest, fastest in fleet

  • Artist's conception of the Coast Guard's cutter Bernard C. Webber.

    Coast Guard

    Artist's conception of the Coast Guard's cutter Bernard C. Webber.

MIAMI -- Miami leaders on Saturday celebrated the launch of the first of a new generation of Coast Guard cutters designed to patrol South Florida's coasts and keep undocumented immigrants and drug smugglers from entering the state.
About 400 people, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami-Dade, helped commission Bernard C. Webber, the Coast Guard's first fast-response cutter at Port Miami.
"It's an honor to have the first ship in its class here in Miami," Gimenez said at the Saturday ceremony. "It will keep us safe and will keep drugs off our shore."
The $88 million, 154-foot Webber, bigger and far more advanced than the older, 110-foot models, is equipped with four .50-caliber machine guns and a remote-operated gyro-stabilized 25 mm chain gun located near the cutter's bow, which can be fired from inside of the pilot's house, making it safer for crew members.
"This is a multi-mission cutter far more capable than the older ones," said Lt. Cmdr. Herb Eggert, Webber's first commander officer. "It will be able to respond to whatever mission we have -- Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Department of Defense missions."
The cutter, designed to be faster and more stable, can sail through seas of up to 18 feet and achieve speeds of more than 32 mph. It's the first of the 58 improved cutters that the Coast Guard is planning to build.
The cutter, which will be stationed in Miami, will be tested for a few weeks before it becomes fully operational in July, Eggert said.
Webber is named after a Coast Guard "hero," a chief warrant officer who saved 32 sailors from a shipwrecked tanker off the Massachusetts coast with a shattered windshield and a broken magnetic compass.
Webber "set the example to go out and put yourself at risk," Eggert said.
The story of this Coast Guard hero, told in the book "The Finest Hours," will soon be a Disney film.
"It's a dream job and an honor to represent Webber," Eggert said.
Story tags » Coast Guard

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