The RELIANCE is the first of the Coast Guard’s sixteen 210-foot “RELIANCE” class medium endurance cutters. She was constructed in Houston, TX at Todd Shipyard at a cost of 4.9 million dollars, and commissioned on June 20, 1964. She was home ported in Corpus Christi, TX until 1975 when she moved to Yorktown, VA to conduct Reserve training until 1982. In 1982, RELIANCE shifted homeport to Port Canaveral, FL for law enforcement duty where she remained until entering the Coast Guard Yard in 1987 to undergo Major Maintenance Availability. RELIANCE arrived in its new homeport of New Castle, NH on March 17, 1989 and was re-commissioned in May of 1989. In November of 1996 RELIANCE shifted berths to her current berth at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) in Portsmouth, NH.
The design of the 210 ft cutters emphasized their search and rescue capabilities which were to be enhanced by utilizing helicopters to extend the reach of the cutters well beyond the horizon. They were meant to replace the 165-foot cutters of the Prohibition era and were the first major cutter replacement project since the 255-foot high endurance cutters from World War II.
There have been three previous cutters named RELIANCE. The first RELIANCE served in Chesapeake Bay during the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 as part of the original Revenue Cutter Fleet. The second RELIANCE patrolled the waters of Alaska from 1866 to 1875. The third RELIANCE was commissioned to serve in the prohibition battle against rumrunners and served from 1927 to 1947. The third RELIANCE was present in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and served the remainder of her time patrolling the waters of Hawaii.
RELIANCE is the third cutter to complete the Major Maintenance Availability at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Baltimore, MD. The complete renovation cost was approximately 16.8 million dollars. Although the basic design remains the same, the project overhauled and upgraded most major systems and equipment. RELIANCE has many new features including a more powerful engineering plant with ALCO diesel engines, and upgraded communications package and electronics suite, increased fire fighting capabilities, and enlarged superstructure, a slightly smaller flight deck, and rehabilitated crew berthing and work spaces.
Throughout its history RELIANCE has performed many of the Coast Guard’s varied missions. In November 1965 RELIANCE rescued 175 people attempting to leave Cuba. In May and June of 1970 she assisted an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico that had caught fire. In 1978 RELIANCE was on-scene commander during the rescue and salvage for the USCGC CUYAHOGA which sank after a collision with the SANTA CRUZ II in the Chesapeake Bay.
As a law enforcement platform, RELIANCE conducted several patrols on Campeche Bank, located in the Western Gulf of Mexico. In October 1980, RELIANCE seized the Spanish fishing vessel ISLA ALEGRAZA for a violation of the Fisheries Conservation Act of 1976. RELIANCE also stemmed the flow of contraband into the United States in July 1984, seizing the sailing vessel JASMINE with 1.5 tons of marijuana. RELIANCE also seized the vessel RELLA in November 1986 with 5 tons of marijuana on board. In June 1989 RELIANCE was on-scene commander for the grounding and oil spill response of the Training Vessel WORLD PRODIGY off Newport, RI. In the fall of 1990 RELIANCE saved the fishing vessel BARNACLE BILL and her crew despite high seas and strong winds.
In July 1991 RELIANCE was in tactical command of a large cocaine seizure aboard the fishing vessel HUNTER. This seizure was the third largest ever and the second largest in maritime history. The seizure netted over 5 tons of cocaine. In June 1994 RELIANCE interdicted 126 Chinese migrants aboard the fishing vessel CAP T DENNY 400 miles off the coast of Virginia. In October 1996 RELIANCE intercepted the motor vessel XING DA with 109 Chinese migrants. RELIANCE stayed on scene with the vessel for eight days while repatriation negotiations took place. The motor vessel XING DA broke down and had to be towed to Bermuda. In October 1999 RELIANCE was the second water asset on scene for the tragic crash of Egypt Air Flight 990. RELIANCE also served as the platform for the most critical recovery of the “black recorder boxes.” In May, 2000 RELIANCE responded to an out of control engine room fire aboard the Fishing Vessel SEA TREK saving the crew from severe danger and keeping the vessel from being completely engulfed in the fire. In September 2001, RELIANCE was tasked to get underway following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and proceeded to conduct port security operations at various major US ports since the incident. RELIANCE is noted as one of the premier enforcement units for New England Fisheries and regularly is tasked with North Atlantic patrols.