Military, State Orders Buoy Patrol Boat Market

Monday, May 10, 2004

By Larry Pearson

Even before the events of 9/11, the patrol boat market for the Navy, Coast Guard and individual state law enforcement departments was very active. For example, in the 1980's Bollinger built 49 Island Class Patrol boats and 10 years later built 50 smaller patrol vessels also for the Coast Guard.

These assets were immediately deployable to counter terrorism threats after 9/11. But with the entire nation on alert, it was obvious that the more sets of eyes and ears we could put on our 95,000 mile coast line the more secure we would be.

In the last two years, hundreds of smaller patrol boats have been built specifically to increase security around ports and other facilities across the nation.

The Navy has been very active ordering vessels to patrol Navy bases and other military installations. Many of these orders have gone to SeaArk Marine Inc., Monticello, Ark., a builder of small aluminum vessels for both patrol and commercial marine uses for over 45 years.

Noteworthy is a contract for its 27-ft. Commander series of vessels. 'We have completed 37 of these vessels and are building another 10," said Ken McFalls, vice president of sales for SeaArk. In Navy parlance these are HSB-S vessels or Harbor Security Boat-Small. Small in size perhaps, these vessels pack plenty of power with twin Honda 130-hp outboard engines for a speed of 34 knots. The propulsion package also contains a 90-gallon fuel tank, counter rotation package and stainless steel props. They have a 17-in. foam/inflatable collar and have two hard points for weapons mounts. They have two pilot seats and air conditioning via a 13,500 BTU roof mounted unit.With a draft of only 1.5 ft., these small vessels can navigate any waterway and with the foam collar board vessels with ease.The most popular SeaArk patrol boat for naval security is its 28-ft. Dauntless series, called HSB-Medium Harbor Security Force Protection vessels. . "44 of these boats have gone to the Navy so far," said McFalls. These vessel feature twin Yamaha 225 hp four-stroke engines with a counter rotation package and stainless steel props. They also have 200-gallon onboard fuel capacity, double that of the Commander series and can travel at 38 knots. The main deck cabin is extended on these vessels to make room for four seats. The vessel also has a 60-in. weapons storage locker, hydraulic steering, a sink with pump and 30 gallon fresh water tank. "We also build larger vessels for the Navy, McFalls explained such as 34-ft. patrol boats for both west coast and east coast Naval Coastal Warfare Groups. "We have delivered 36 of these vessels, McFalls said. These vessels use inboard engines, specifically Cummins 6BTA5.9M-3 diesels rated at 370 hp driving Konrad drives through Twin Disc gears. Speed is 32 knots. These vessels also have a more complete navigation package including Furuno radar, Furuno depth sounder and a Standard Horizon VHF radio.

The vessels have two aft gun mounts as the other two series vessels have, but the 34-foot vessel also has a forward recessed gun tub that is self-bailing with watertight door and storage. "These three series of vessels provide the Navy with significant assets to protect its harbor vessels and facilities," McFalls added. To some extent, the success of SeaArk's program for the U.S. Navy has led to increase sales of its vessels to state and city law enforcement groups. "Inland harbors and cities need protection as well and the same boats bought by the Navy are finding favor at the state and local level, McFalls reported. There are other federal law enforcement agencies that are finding SeaArk vessels are just the ticket to patrol specific sites. The U.S. Park Police are charged with the protection of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor. A SeaArk 44-ft. Dauntless vessel is providing surveillance, patrol, search and rescue, port security, diving support and anti-terrorism activities in these waters.

Power is via a pair of Cummins QSM11 inboard engines rated at 580 hp each. In addition the boat has a 10 kW generator, an ICOM VHF/FM radio, a Northstar chart plotter and a Furuno radar. Of special note is a Hurley infrared system for nighttime operations. Central heat and air conditioning provides all-season crew comfort and operation.

One of SeaArk's most recent successes in this area is with the City of Baltimore Police Marine Unit. They are charged with protecting Baltimore's Inner Harbor, a revitalized section of the Baltimore waterfront. Billions of dollars of office buildings, condos and retail developments line the waterfront in this area. The Police also cover six public and 20 private shipping terminals for a total of 57 miles of linear waterway on a 24/7 basis. Thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Federal Homeland Security Administration, the Baltimore Police have purchased three patrol boats from SeaArk. First to be delivered was a 27-ft. VC Commander similar to the Navy's HSB Small vessel. The vessel features a pair of 225 hp Evinrude outboards for speeds to 51 mph, making it easier to cover the 15 square mile jurisdiction. The vessel has a four-man cabin. Optional equipment includes a 13,500 BTY roof-mounted air conditioner, a five kW gasoline generator, an ICOM radio/loud hailer system, a Furuno chart plotter, and a Raymarine radar with 25-mile range. A 25-ft. VC Commander is next to be delivered followed by a 36-ft. Dauntless that will be the "Queen " of the fleet. Powered by a pair of 420 hp Caterpillar 3126 turbo-charged diesels, this vessel will serve as the fleet command center in cases of disaster or special events in the area. In addition to patrolling the wide expanses of the harbor on anti-terrorism duty, the 14-member Police Marine Unit is charged with domestic waterfront protection. That includes search and rescue work, burglary investigations, accident inquiries and law enforcement. Recreational boating safety is also a priority with this group as are "blue light" escorts to ships entering the harbor. Even small town fire departments have found SeaArk vessels are ideal for fire, rescue, patrol and other missions. Different departments can choose from a variety of propulsion packages and optional accessories to tailor the vessel to their needs. The Ridge, Md. Fire Department covers the middle Chesapeake Bay and offers mutual assistance for the Eastern Shore in Maryland and the counties that boarder the Potomac River in Virginia. A SeaArk 26-ft. enforcer was chosen powered by a pair of 200 hp Yamaha outboard engines that offer response speed to 36 knots. The boat has a Hale 500 gpm fire system with bow mounted monitor and foam induction capability. The Clinton Ct., Fire Department protects Clinton Harbor and Long Island Sound. And chose a pair of 250 hp Evinrude outboard to power a 27-ft. Commander Series vessel. In a rescue mode, the boat has a dive door at the waterline wide enough to pass a person on a backboard to the inside cabin were stabilization work can be done by EMTs while the vessel sets a course for shore and the nearest medical treatment facility. "We have also supplied vessels for several state police units and other local and state law enforcement units," McFalls said. "While many of these boats have fire, search and rescue or other primary missions, patrol is always a capability these boats have especially with their high speed, boarding of vessels via the foam collar and a deep-vee variable dead rise hull that produces a smooth, dry and stable ride," McFalls added.With so many federal, state and local needs for small patrol boats, McFalls is looking for several more good years of strong sales. Even if the Navy business tails off, McFalls thinks, "there are significant opportunities at the state and local levels for our proven designs."

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