United States Coast Guard Cutter

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USCGC Harriet Lane, a Medium Endurance Cutter (WMEC)

United States Coast Guard Cutter is the term used by the U.S. Coast Guard for its commissioned vessels. They are 65 feet (19.8 m) or greater in length and have a permanently assigned crew with accommodations aboard.[1][2] They carry the ship prefix USCGC.

History of the USCG cutters[edit]

The Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service, as it was known variously throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, referred to its ships as cutters. The term is English in origin and refers to a specific type of vessel, namely, "a small, decked ship with one mast and bowsprit, with a gaff mainsail on a boom, a square yard and topsail, and two jibs or a jib and a staysail."[3] With general usage, that term came to define any vessel of the United Kingdom's HM Customs and Excise and the term was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department at the creation of what would become the Revenue Marine. Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the service has referred to its vessels with permanently assigned crews as cutters.

First ten cutters[edit]

In 1790, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to create a maritime service to enforce customs laws (1 Stat. L. 145, 175; 4 August 1790). Alternatively known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service was officially named the Revenue Cutter Service (12 Stat. L., 639) in 1863. This service was placed under the control of the Treasury Department. The first ten cutters were:[4]

Contemporary painting of a Revenue Marine cutter (possibly USRC Massachusetts )

Current USCG cutter classes and types[edit]

USCG icebreaker Polar Sea

Historic USCG cutter classes and types[edit]


  1. ^ "Aircraft, Boats, and Cutters". Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  2. ^ USCG History, FAQS, Definitions: "What is a "Cutter"?". Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  3. ^ Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.
  4. ^ Willoughby, Malcolm F. (1957). The U.S. Coast Guard in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. p. 3.