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USCG Medium Endurance Cutter Harriet Lane

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

History of the USCG cutters

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] By general usage, that term came to define any vessel of Great Britain'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

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). Alternately known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service (12 Stat. L., 639) in 1863. This service was placed under the control of the Treasury Department.

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

Current USCG cutter classes and types

USCG Ice Breaker Polar Sea

USCG Inland Construction Tender Saginaw'

Historic USCG cutter classes and types

USCG buoy tender Firebush

USCG Cutter Durant

See also


  1. "Aircraft, Boats, and Cutters". Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  2. "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.

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