Saving on Gas–Always Nice


MarineLog reports,

“DECEMBER 2, 2016 — Wärtsilä EnergoProFin is now available for controllable pitch propellers (CPP) as well as fixed pitch propellers (FPP).”

“The specially designed propeller cap has hydrofoil-section fins on the downstream side of the propeller, creating fuel savings of up to five percent.”

They claim the addition pays for itself in one to two years.

From our perspective, it should also increase the range of the ship, and may very slightly increase maximum speed.

Coast Guard Bound for the South China Sea?

South China Sea claims map by Voice of America, 31 July, 2012

South China Sea claims map by Voice of America, 31 July, 2012

The Voice of America is reporting,

The top U.S. Coast Guard official is eyeing a unique role for his fleet in maintaining peace and stability in the East and the South China seas under the incoming presidential administration.

By mirroring the role of China’s Coast Guard in parts of the Asia-Pacific, said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, the U.S. Coast Guard could be the face of U.S. military presence in disputed waters without appearing too threatening.

“When you look at the East and South China seas, look at China’s Coast Guard, it is really the first face of China,” he told VOA. “So I’ve proposed to the Department of Defense that if they were to leverage the U.S. Coast Guard, I would look at providing resources to provide the face of the United States behind a Coast Guard ship, and should that be a consideration for our approach to the East and South China seas with the next administration.”

The post has more background.

This is a major change to Coast Guard tasking and there should be no doubt is will require some trade-off against existing tasking. In all probability our contribution will be a National Security Cutter. Keeping one in the Western Pacific probably means one less in the Eastern Pacific.

Perhaps the Navy will compensate by putting a ship under SOUTHCOM.

Thanks to Luke S. for bringing this to my attention. 

CG articles 30 Nov. 2016

Some articles that might be of interest, but not something I’m ready to comment on.

A proposal to hand over all large cutters to the Navy. I think my friend may have “jumped the shark” here.

The Commandant talks about what we need to include in the new Polar Icebreaker.

And a bill to reform the Dept of Homeland Security.

Making nice with the Russians in the Arctic.

“AMO and Coast Guard Missions are not Duplicative”–Office of Inspector General


Many of us have wondered about the apparent duplication of effort by the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO). Apparently the The U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security had the same concern and asked for an audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). This resulted in a report, “AMO and Coast Guard Maritime Missions Are Not Duplicative, But Could Improve with Better Coordination (pdf).”

Guess there is no suspense in what their findings were, but I find the methodology and conclusions less than complete and satisfying.

The recommendations of the audit were:

Recommendation #1: We recommend that the DHS Under Secretary for Management reestablish an oversight mechanism at the DHS level to ensure that AMO and the Coast Guard coordinate operations.

Recommendation #2: We recommend that the Coast Guard Commandant, CBP Commissioner, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director revise the Maritime Operations Coordination Plan to include requirements for coordination and information sharing at all levels, especially the local level.

So the response was equally predictable–form a committee.

I’m sorry, but my BS meter is off the scale. The alarm went off first, when they consistently called the territorial sea, “customs waters” lending a presumption that this is a Customs job.

While their conclusion may ultimately prove correct, they essentially failed to look at the most significant area of overlap–Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The audit concentrated exclusively on drug enforcement and failed to consider Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations (AMIO). And they failed to answer the most basic questions.

While coordination is always assumed to be a “good thing,” the only real reason you should want two agencies performing the same function would indicate less coordination, not more.

There is no doubt AMO does useful work, that is not the point. The question is, what is the most effective and economical way to distribute resources. Should DHS be working toward a different distribution of tasking and resources?

Unanswered questions:

Why does Customs need boats? The Revenue Cutter Service was Customs’ boat service. Why doesn’t the Coast Guard still fulfill that function? The Coast Guard operates boats. Boats are on standby with crews at the ready. When Customs needs a boat, why don’t they ride Coast Guard boats? What is the cost of an operating hour for comparable Coast Guard and Customs boats?

AMO does need aircraft to do several tasks, including interdiction of smuggling by air, but why does Customs need to have a fleet of maritime patrol aircraft for interdiction of surface vessels, when the Coast Guard also has to provide a similar fleet for a whole range of missions? The AMO operates a fleet of 14 P-3s including both Airborne Early Warning models and P-3 Long Range Trackers. They are over 40 years old and undergoing an extensive and expensive life extension program. AMO also operates Bombardier DHC-8, and Beach King Air 350ER equipped with marine search radars. What is the cost of an operating hour for comparable Coast Guard and Customs aircraft?

AMO regularly performs air interdiction. Perhaps they should be the ones doing the low speed air interdiction over DC.

Other missions:

In  addition to drug enforcement, the two agencies seem to have overlapping missions in Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations (AMIO) and counter terrorism. Why weren’t these missions looked at as well?

AMO boats are suitable only for very short ranged AMIO missions while Coast Guard vessels a suitable for interception long before the approach the US coast.

It appears that AMO assets are limited to small arms. If the terrorist threat is anything much larger than a small boat, they are unlikely to be effective in countering it without assistance.

What about Jurisdiction?

AMO operates primarily within the customs waters, but it maintains the authority to pursue vessels fleeing the customs waters or hovering outside those waters as a means of avoiding AMO jurisdiction.

The Coast Guard is not similarly limited in the Marine environment. The effects of this on agency effectiveness was not considered.

Maybe AMO’s jurisdiction should be extended to cover the entire EEZ, but that is not the case now and AMO’s boats don’t seem suited for operations much beyond 12 miles. They are generally very fast, but probably short legged with minimal protection for the crew from the elements.

The characteristics of their boats don’t seem to square with the very long range character of their aircraft like the P-3s.

Why overlapping responsibility might be a good idea–coordination be damned:

There is one reason you might want two agencies responsible for the same law enforcement mission. That would be if you worry about the possibility that one of the agencies might be compromised. For instance if one agency is somehow compromised by a criminal organization. The law enforcement agency might still appear successful. The criminal organization might use the agency to eliminate its competitors, providing intelligence. A second independent agency might uncover this corruption.

Use of Force: 

There is an interesting section comparing the two agencies’ use of force policies.

Approval for Employing Use of Force

Coast Guard crews must receive approval from the appropriate official in the chain of command, typically an Admiral, before using force to stop noncompliant vessels. According to the Coast Guard, the approval time can take from 10 minutes to several hours depending on the case. In contrast, AMO policy reflects a more traditional law enforcement approach and allows its agents to make use of force decisions.

According to the Coast Guard, it needs a use of force policy to cover a vast range of mission sets across a legally and jurisdictionally complex operating environment. Although the approval process has some level of risk mitigation, the Coast Guard designed the process to relieve on-scene officers of the need to access U.S. jurisdiction and legal authority to employ force against a noncompliant vessel, and allows those officers to focus on executing the tactics and procedures to safely and effectively employ that force.

We participated in use of force demonstrations for noncompliant vessels with both components and experienced the delay in the Coast Guard’s approval process. Although there are potential safety concerns for Coast Guard boat crews during a pursuit, the Coast Guard stated that it updated its law enforcement manual to “refine and streamline the process in every way possible” to reduce the time lapse from when the Coast Guard vessel is “overt” (known by the suspected vessel to be following) to when the necessary actions (use of force) are completed.

Hopefully if a Coast Guard CO sees a terrorist attack underway, he will have the flexibility to act on the knowledge, even if there is no time to get approval.

Using Statistics that do not correlate:

As noted, the report only looked at drug enforcement and only at a small part of the mission. Quoting from the report,

“There are 206 combined locations where AMO and the Coast Guard conduct operations in customs waters. Of the 206, there are 17 locations (8 percent) where AMO and the Coast Guard have similar capabilities and an overlapping area of responsibility.”


” In FY 2015, at the 17 overlapping locations, all of AMO’s drug seizures occurred on land or in customs waters, where marine units primarily conduct operations.”

“The Coast Guard is a multi-mission agency, including law enforcement that operates in both customs and international waters. In contrast to AMO, Coast Guard personnel assigned to drug and migrant interdiction do not conduct investigative or land operations. In FY 2015, 93 percent of Coast Guard drug seizures occurred in international waters (Transit Zone) (emphasis applied–Chuck). AMO only deploys aircraft in this area; it does not have the vessels to operate in these waters.”

“In the overlapping locations, 84 percent of reported drug seizures were from AMO operations. These seizures occurred, in part, because of the different activities of each agency. For example, while some of AMO operations were intelligence based, the Coast Guard conducts routine patrols looking for illegal activity. Although Coast Guard patrols are not as effective as intelligence-based operations, they show a presence and can deter illegal activity.” (Emphasis applied–Chuck)

First note that this compares Customs’ seizures both on land and on the water with the seizures of the Coast Guard, a multimission agency, on the water alone. This also seems to imply that Customs was not sharing their intelligence with the Coast Guard.

FY 2015 Drug Seizures from the 17 Overlapping Locations Agency Customs Waters (Drugs in Pounds) AMO 28,707 (land and water) (84%) Coast Guard 5,602 (16%) Total 34,309.

I doubt the Coast Guard units they looked at drug interdiction as their primary mission. Certainly the AMO units did.

Why the difference in statistics?:

According to Coast Guard statistics, Coast Guard drug seizures in FY2015 were 319,229.4 lbs of Cocaine and 78,262 lbs of Marijuana. Appendix C indicates that the Coast Guard had seized 199,749 lbs of Cocaine and 57,855 lbs of Marijuana. (Why the large difference in these figures?)

Figures reported for AMO in Appendix C were 243,387 lb of cocaine and 719,180 lb of Marijuana.

Pounds of drugs is not a very informative metric, if various types of drugs are aggravated. It also says nothing about its purity. After being cut there is less drugs in a pound of drugs.

Over the past five years, according to Coast Guard statistics, Coast Guard cutters, Allied ships and U.S. Navy ships with Coast Guard boarding teams, in the transit zone, removed more than 500 metric tons of cocaine—a wholesale value of nearly $17 billion. According to the Coast Guard, “this is approximately three times the amount of cocaine, at twice the purity, seized by all other U.S. federal, state and local and tribal law enforcement agencies combined over the same time span.”

The figures above don’t seem to square.


Looking at this, I found a cost comparison of what the two agencies spend for their personnel interesting. The total AMO budget for FY2015 was $750M supporting 1,665 members, while the CG budget of $8,380M supported 41,700. Budget/Personnel equals $450,450 per AMO member and $200,959 per CG member. There are probably lots of reasons AMO cost more than twice as much per member, but it might have been worth some examination.


Bottom line, this report failed to answer the question, “Why do both the Coast Guard and Customs have both boats and maritime patrol aircraft?”

What we got was a distorted comparison of the relative success of the Coast Guard and Customs drug interdiction efforts.

These distortions can have consequences and should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. I can understand the Coast Guard not wanting to offend people in the IG office, but I have no such problem, and neither should the subcommittee that requested the audit.

Thanks to Brymar consulting’s web site for alerting me to this.

Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar


NavyRecognition reports, “GeoSpectrum Technologies Inc. is pleased to announce that it has received a contract through the Build in Canada Innovation Program. Defence Research and Development Canada will test the TRAPS (Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar) variable depth ASW sonar on Royal Canadian Navy ships.”

This system is seen as a possibility for both the twelve Kingston class “Coastal Defense Vessels” (970 tons, slightly smaller than the 210s) and the projected six icebreaking Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships. There is apparently no intention of using these on the more capable frigates.

TRAPS towing configuration, diagram from GeoSpectrum, Canada

TRAPS towing configuration

The system can be fitted in a standard sized 20 foot container.

TRAPS in 20 foot iso container.

TRAPS in 20 foot iso container.

GeoSpectrum claims :

“The modular design of TRAPS provides a variety of installation options, including containerization on multi-mission vessels and standard deck-mounting.

“The TRAPS system is ideal for small combatants such as OPVs, corvettes, ships of opportunity, and USVs. Applications include naval defence/surveillance, drug interdiction, homeland security, and other water-borne policing.”

In addition to detecting submarines and surface vessels, the system is claimed to be usable for:

  • Active torpedo detection
  • Torpedo decoy
  • Passive receiver
  • Black box pinger detection
  • Sonobuoy processor

A typical detection range of 50 nautical miles is claimed. If it works as advertised this might give most of our larger ships an ASW capability and perhaps help us detect semi-submersibles. Thales’ CAPTAS series is similar, with CAPTAS 2 and CAPTAS 1, designed for ships of over 1,500 and 300 tons respectively.

Don’t Go Out Without Protection

U.S. Coast Guardsmen, assigned to Port Security Unit 309 in Port Clinton, Ohio, conduct security patrols during exercise Combined Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (CJLOTS) 2015, at Anmyeon Beach, Republic of Korea, June 30. CJLOTS 2015 is an exercise designed to train U.S. and ROK service members to accomplish vital logistical measures in a strategic area while strengthening communication and cooperation in the U.S.-ROK alliance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kori Melvin/Released)Photo: TPSB with ballistic protection,  Anmyeon Beach, Republic of Korea, June 30. Exercise CJLOTS 2015 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kori Melvin/Released)

Got an interesting link from Luke S. “Evaluation of Composite Armor for Coast Guard Vessels” (pdf) is a study from 1989, looking at how selected portions of the 110 foot WPBs might be protected from small arms fire. Here is the summary of their findings.

Up to a firing range of 100 yards, which was the limit of this study, personnel inside Island Class cutters are vulnerable to lethal rifle fire coming from drug smugglers. Test results showed that unconditional protection for personnel inside can be obtained by adding KRP (KEVLAR reinforced plastic–Chuck) armor panels to the cutter. This is also a more weight effective solution than increasing the thickness of the hull and superstructure. Although it was found that placing the KRP either in front of or behind the 1/8″ aluminum was equally effective, it should be noted that the aluminum by itself was overmatched by the threats. In general, it is more efficieut to place the KRP behind metal.

The USCG R&D Center defined three areas of the Island Class cuttfer that required protection in order to allow it to continue its mission if it came ander fire. These were the bridge and the communications room, both behind 1/8″ aluminum, and the magazine behind 5# steel. A visit was made to the USCGC Matinicus to take measurements and assess the feasibility of retrofitting KRP armor in those areas. Retrofitting them inside the bridge and communications room could be done by placing them in the space between the exterior aluminum skin and the interior trim panels. This might require some fit and trim but KRP panels can be cut and drilled so there should be no particular difficulty. Another option is to place the panels on the exterior of the bridge and communications room. This would appear to be an easier task but would present a different set of considerations. Since the KRP panels would have to be spaced 3″ in front of the aluminum, the panel supports would have to be designed to withstand green water loading. Environmental effects on these panels caused by exposure to seawater and UV radiation is not a problem for adequately sealed KRP. For the remaining area requiring armor, the magazine, mounting the panels against the steel hull inside the vessel did not appear to be difficult.

The amount of material and weight added in each of the critical areas is summarized in TABLE 6 for the worst case threat, the 7.62mm, M80 at point blank range.

TABLE 6 included the location to be protected, the total area to be armored, the weight per square foot for the armor, and the total weight for protection to that level. I have summarize the data below, but did not include the weight per sq.

  • Bridge 33′ x 4′ – 132 sq ft, 1056 lbs.
  • Communication rm. 14′ x 6′ • 84 sq ft, 672 lbs.
  • Magazine 6. x 6′ 36 sq ft, 180 lbs.
  • Total area covered: 252 sq. ft. weight: 1908 lbs.

These numbers are guidelines because the minimum armor density required was not determined in this study. Nevertheless, realizing these numbers are on the high side, the material cost from a commercial panel manufacturer for a KRP panel weighing 8 psf (lbs/sq ft–Chuck) with 20% resin would be about $40,000. This is basd upon a panel cost in the $20 to $24 per pound range.

Makes me wonder if anything was done about this, particularly for the WPBs based in Bahrain. Also, was anything included in the Webber class WPCs?

Even this relatively light armor would also provide a degree of protection against heavier .50 cal. and 14.5mm machine guns if fired from a greater range and/or if the round strikes at an oblique angle.

In addition to the bridge, comm space, and magazine, the gunners on open mounts could also use some protection as I’ve suggested before.

I have heard that ballistic protection for the Offshore Patrol Cutter has been deleted. This may be a mistake, particularly if it is as inexpensive as it appears.

Late addition:

Just found this. The photo below is Prince Charles boarding the HMS Middleton (a 32 year old, 750 ton mine countermeasures vessel) in Bahrain. The post is interesting regarding the situation in Bahrain, but I wanted to mention the gun crew protection visible between the stack and mast. The gun is an M134 “mini-gun,” a six barrel 7.62mm “gatling” gun. The additional pretection is apparent. Apparently the Brits recognize the need to protect their gun crews. It is not just about protecting the gunner, it is also about keeping the gun that is defending the ship operational.


Sea Shepherd’s New Vessel “Ocean Warrior”

gCaptain reports the Sea Shepherd organization has taken possession of their new vessel “Ocean Warrior.” The little ship could make a credible patrol boat, and the bridge layout is also interesting.

Background here.


Reportedly this vessel is based on an existing design. Here you can find a product description of the “parent craft,” the here: Download ›

Based on the parent craft, it appears the dimensions are:

  • Length O.A. 53.25 m (175 feet)
  • Beam O.A. 10.10 m (33 feet)
  • Depth at sides: 4.70 m (15.4 feet)
  • Draught: 3.20 m (10.5 feet)
  • Speed: 30 knots
  • Four engines totalling 8 megawatts or approx 10,728.2 HP

They claim an exceptional range of “3100 nm. at max. speed” but they also list a range of maximum speed from 20-30 knots depending upon choice of engines, so I assume this is really 3,100 miles at 20 knots, but that is still exceptional and probably would translate to over 5,000 miles at most economical speed.

There is a “virtual tour’ of the parent craft here.


I would note that all four engines and all the generators are located in a single compartment (good for minimal manning/not so good for damage control) and the small helo deck on the “Ocean Warrior” has a number of obstructions that would be unacceptable to the Coast Guard, but it could make a good UAV operating area.

Crew for the parent craft is only eight, and consequently only birthing for eight is provided on the parent craft, but it also includes airline style seating for 80 in the main deck compartment at the foc’sle. Presumably on the Ocean Warrior this area has been converted for additional birthing.