Since the 9/11 attack there has obviously been increased emphasis on getting more eyes, ears and in some cases firepower on America's ports and inland waterways
. Homeland security has become a top priority for the U.S. Coast Guard and numerous other Federal, state and local agencies.
Patrol boats offer a relatively low cost solution to increasing security on America's waterways and in and around ports. These vessels range from RIB's with outboard motors
to aluminum-hulled craft with high horsepower diesel engines enabling them to quickly reach and maintain high speeds often required for interdiction.
Fortunately America was building capable patrol boats before 9/11. The mission of these vessels prior to 9/11 was mostly drug interdiction, search and rescue and/or border security. Vessels used for these missions are now being used, with little modification, for an expanded role as the "cops" keeping our ports and waterways safe from threats.
With many different patrol vessel configurations in production, it has not been necessary to embark on a long design phase before boats start coming out of shipyards.
South to Louisiana
For example, Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., was in the final stages of delivering 50 87-ft. Marine Protector Class Coastal Patrol Boats for the Coast Guard on 9/11 when the terrorists attacked. The pace of delivering a vessel every two months continued until the last vessel was delivered in September 2002.
Because of expanded mission requirements, the Coast Guard has been authorized to procure 13 additional vessels and has funding now for four.
The new vessels will be practically identical to the 50 vessels now in Coast Guard inventory. They feature a pair of 1,500 hp MTU eight cylinder engines that allows the vessel a maximum speed of 25 knots and a patrol speed of 10 knots.
The vessels carry a RIB that is launched and recovered at the stern. The RIB is capable of 30 knots with a two-man crew. Construction has begun on the first vessel and it will be delivered in September 2003 and be followed by one vessel a month. It is anticipated that funding will be available to build all 13 vessels and based on the popularity of this vessel, follow on orders are a real possibility.
Bollinger is also working on another Coast Guard patrol boat program. This involves the 49 Island Class Patrol Boats Bollinger built in the 1984-91 time period. These 110-ft. vessels will have the transom removed and a 13-ft. extension added at the stern to accommodate a stern launched RIB. Zodiac will supply a 23- ft. RIB.
The first vessel is expected to arrive in Lockport next month and will rejoin the fleet in the forth quarter 2003. The other 48 patrol boats will each take about six months to modify. This renovation project is a part of the Coast Guard Deepwater program that will update both air and sea resources for the agency.
North to Alaska
In addition to significant military patrol boat building programs such as those at Bollinger, various state and local agencies are investing in fast and very capable vessels to help them fulfill their patrol missions.
Kvichak Marine, Seattle, Wash. has long been known as a builder of fast aluminum vessels. They recently delivered a 65- ft. by 25- ft. patrol boat of a catamaran design to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The catamaran design has become popular for patrol boats that work in elevated sea states at least part of the year. The inherent stability of catamaran hulls has become popular among a wide variety of users.
Designed by Crowther Multihulls of Australia, the vessel can achieve a top speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of 20 knots. The power for the vessel comes from a pair of 660 hp Caterpillar 3196 diesel engines spinning 30-in. props through Twin Disc gears.
Called the Cama'I, the vessel will support multi-agency law enforcement work, enforce commercial fishing regulations and be used in search and rescue work.
The Cama'l will patrol the area around Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol
Bay, waters known for their high sea states and bad weather during the winter.
Multi mission capability has become an important design element in patrol boat design. Kvichak also built in 2002 a fireboat for the port of Los Angeles
. The 39- ft. vessel will also be fulfilling homeland security patrol, inspection and emergency medical service duties. The vessel can reach a top speed of 29 knots making it a valuable resource for the Port of Los Angeles as it copes with an increased threat environment.
Small Boats … Big Job
For every "large" patrol boat built (50 ft. and up) there are literally dozens of small craft that do no less important work in domestic law enforcement and homeland security patrols. SeaArk Marine, Monticello, Ark. is a company that specializes in building smaller vessels.
This includes two Commander vessels purchased by the National Park Service to patrol the waters around the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. While only 25- ft. long, these patrol boats are just the ticket to keep watch on one of the country's most important symbols of freedom. Using a pair of Johnson 175-hp outboard engines, these vessels can reach speeds of 50 mph. The company's Dauntless Series of patrol boats have met with worldwide acceptance. More than 50 of these vessels have been delivered since 1992 and the company is anticipating a large increase in the sales of these vessels in the next few years to meet homeland security needs.
The Peruvian Coast Guard purchased six 40- ft. long models of this vessel for patrol and drug interdiction. Other Dauntless models have been used by the military to perform harbor security and vessel traffic control at various U.S. military installations worldwide. The most recent contract for the Dauntless series is a $14 million order for 36 of the 34- ft. vessels to be delivered in the next two years. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVEA) is the purchasing arm for the U.S. Navy. The first of the vessels was delivered in December 2002 and SeaArk will deliver an average of one vessel every three weeks. The 34- x 10- x 2.2-ft. draft vessels are of all aluminum construction with a foam collar fitted where the hull joins the main deck for boarding and shouldering operations. The collar is removable and replaceable. A pair of Cummins 6BTA5.9M-3 each rated at 375 hp gives the vessel a rated speed of 32 knots. The Cummins engines power Twin Disc gears that drive Konrad Stern Drives. Steering is hydraulic and the navigation communications equipment on board includes a Furuno radar with a 24-inch dome, Furuno GPS/depth sounder
and a VHF radio. Other features of the Dauntless Series is onboard AC power, air conditioning, a galley area, four 50 caliber weapon mount foundations, ammo storage, weapons storage, sonar buoy storage, a recessed forward gunner area and foundations and accommodations for the installation of future classified electronics. Onboard fuel capacity is 200 gallons.
These vessels are designed for patrol and defense and will be used to protect military facilities worldwide.
Protection of our military assets from terror attacks is a priority along with more conventional targets such as the waterways and ports.