“Icebreaker Xuelong 2 joins service on China national maritime day” –Global Times

China’s first domestically built polar research vessel and icebreaker, Xuelong 2 docks at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on Thursday morning. Photo: Polar Research Institute of China

Global Times is reporting completion of China’s first domestically produced Polar Icebreaker. (Their existing polar icebreaker was built in the Ukraine.)

According to Wikipedia, she was designed by Finnish firm Aker Arctic Technology. Specs are as follows.

  • Polar Class 3
  • Double Acting, can break ice going ahead or astern
  • Displacement of 14,300 tons
  • Length: 122.5 metres (402 ft)
  • Beam: 22.3 metres (73 ft)
  • Draft: 8.3 metres (27 ft)
  • Max Speed: 15 knots
  • Accommodations: 90 Passengers and crew
  • Diesel-electric propulsion system, two 16-cylinder, two 12-cylinder engines, both Wärtsilä 32-series, drive through two 7.5 MW Azipods. Just under 20,000 HP

It is a lot smaller than the planned Polar Security Cutter, but it is also larger and about as powerful and almost certainly more effective than the Glacier that served the US effectively for many years.

The hull and power plant looks like something we might want for our medium icebreakers, and I note, it looks like this size could negotiate the Saint Lawrence Seaway. That would mean a similar ship could potentially operate both on the Great Lakes and support Atlantic Fleet operations if required.

Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention.

Does Atlantic Fleet Need an Icebreaker Capability?

USCGC Southwind Commissioning.

This post is going to be a little strange, because it starts with a question no one has ask and it will not provide any real answer. It is more the start of a thought process about possibilities. 
Does the Atlantic Fleet need icebreakers to support high latitude operations? Particularly US military icebreakers? And if so, could this support be provided by icebreakers that might also provide icebreaking services in the Great Lakes during peacetime?
I don’t know, but we do know that the Coast Guard’s first icebreakers were not based in the Pacific and they were not intended for Antarctic. They were used during World War Two in the Atlantic, particularly around Greenland.
We also know that NORAD and NORTHCOM are going to need to start replacing the Dew Line Systems with more modern systems that are need to protect against, not just ballistic missiles and high altitude strategic bombers, but also surface skimming cruise missiles.
LANTFLT may not have considered the question  They only recently operated a carrier strike group North of the Arctic Circle for the first time in almost three decades. The question may not have come up, or they may have assumed that when the Coast Guard gets new icebreakers some of them will operate in the Atlantic.
If the Coast Guard persists in its current pattern, all icebreakers, except small icebreaking tugs and those in the Great Lakes, will be homeported in the Pacific. Of course that makes some sense. The US Arctic coast is all in Alaska and most readily accessible from the Pacific. The US Antarctic base at McMurdo Sound is also most accessible from the Pacific.
Atlantic Area’s only icebreaking requirement for assets more capable than the 140 foot icebreaking tugs and the 2,000 ton, 6,200 HP, 225 foot Juniper class buoy tenders is in the Great Lakes.
What kind of icebreaker might both operate in the Great Lakes and be available to support LANTFLT?
In World War II this was impossible. The Saint Lawrence Seaway was not opened to ocean going traffic until 1959. The Saint Lawrence Seaway currently admits ship up to a length 740 ft (225.6 m), a beam of 78 ft (23.8 m) and a draft of 26.5 ft (8.1 m) (SeawayMax). Clearly, it is the beam and draft which are the limiting parameters for any icebreaker design that is intended to operate alternately in both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic. The Polar Security Cutters with a beam of 88 feet are clearly too large, as would be the 13,623 ton Polar Star, with its 83 ft 6 in (25.45 m) beam and the Healey with its 82 foot beam.
In looking at what sorts of icebreaker might be usable in both the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, we have to recognize that draft will increase in fresh water because it is up to about 3% less dense but on the other hand the icebreaker could transit the locks in a lightened condition, at less than full load, reducing their draft. There may be a bit more flexibility relative to draft. 
The newer USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30) is not limited by the locks, with a displacement of 3,500 tons, it has a beam of only 58.5 ft (17.8 m) and a draft of 16 ft (4.9 m). Even the much larger original Mackinaw would have fit, (Displacement:5,252 long tons (5,336 t), Length: 290 ft (88 m), Beam: 74.3 ft (22.6 m), Draft: 19.5 ft (5.9 m)) as would the Wind class.

Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel Svalbard. Photo by Marcusroos

A couple of modern military classes that might be available to aid in the Arctic are the Norwegian Coast Guard Cutter Svalbard and the very similar Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS). Both could easily transit the Saint Lawrence Seaway, but, with 12,000 to 13,410 HP, neither could be considered a medium icebreaker. Even so they are more powerful than the Mackinaw.

USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4)

USCGC Glacier (WAGB-4) (8,449 long tons (8,585 t) full load) would be considered a medium icebreaker due to her 16,000 MW (21,000 HP) motors. Her draft appears too deep at 29 ft (8.8 m), but since her beam 74 ft (23 m) was well within the SeawayMax, it should be possible to make an at least comparably capable ship that could navigate the Seaway. Additional length over and above Glacier’s 309 ft 6 in (94.34 m) could provide space to meet additional requirements. 
Conclusion: 
It should be possible to make a reasonably capable class of medium icebreakers that could be homeported in the Great Lakes and also be available to support any LANTFLT operation requiring icebreaker support.
These ships might be seen as overkill relative to the requirements of the Great Lakes, but if they wish to extend the navigational season, the additional capability might be useful.
An ability to support naval operations might provide additional justification for these vessels. For peacetime operations on the Lakes, armament is unnecessary and might be seen as a treaty violation, but provision for adding armament in case of a future conflict might be a good hedge against an uncertain future.
Could the same design also serve as the Medium Icebreakers currently planned? This is less clear. There is also the possibility that the best course to provide the six icebreakers currently being discussed is to simply build six of the current design Polar Security Cutters.

Norwegian Coast Guard’s New Ice Strengthened Cutters –They Will Be Big

Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel Svalbard. Currently the largest Norwegian Coast Guard ship. The new ships will be about 50% larger. Photo by Marcusroos

Just received information on the new Norwegian Coast Guard cutters that will be replacing the three ships of the Nordkapp class in the form of a 26 page pdf that appears to have been briefing graphics from August 2014.

We discussed these ships briefly in an Oct. 5, 2016 post. June 25, 2018 Marine Log reported that VARD had won a contract to build three ships at a cost exceeding NOK 5 billion (about $618 million).

Deliveries of the three vessels are scheduled from Vard Langsten in Norway in 1Q 2022, 1Q 2023 and 1Q 2024 respectively. The hulls will be built at Vard’s Tulcea, Romania, shipyard;

According to the presentation they are going to be relatively big ships, about three times the size of the ships they will replace at 9,800 tons, and 136.4 meters (447.4 ft) loa, 19 meter (62.3 ft) beam, and 6.2 meter (20.3 ft) draft. Later information puts the beam at 22 meters (72.16 ft). That makes them larger than the icebreaker Glacier, although they are not icebreakers, only ice strengthened. It does not have an icebreaker bow.

They are expected to hangar two NH90 helicopters (10,600 kg/23,370 lb max TO weight) with deck space to land an AW101 (14,600 kg/32,188 lb max TO weight). They are expected to have a speed of 22 knots, endurance of eight weeks, accommodations for 100, collective CBRN protection, and space for containers on deck.

They will have a single medium caliber gun, apparently a 57mm, with an all weather fire control system, plus machine guns, sonar, and torpedo and mine storage for the helicopters. Since these ships will be armed very much like the Nordkapp class that they replace, there will all probably be provision for mounting Naval Strike Missile, although that is not mentioned in the briefing.

They will also be equipped with pollution abatement systems.

These ships were designed by VARD, also the designer of the US Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter and Canada’s Arctic and Offshore Patrol Vessel. This might be a design we should consider as an Arctic Patrol Cutter. Certainly the Norwegian Coast Guard should be able to provide some good advice once they have had some experience with these.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

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

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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.

Costs:

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.

Conclusion: 

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.

Argentine Coast Guard Sinks Chinese Fishing Vessel

This Video does not appear to show the sinking of the fishing vessel. Speckles on the hull of the F/V seen at time 0:20 and 0:50 may be bullet holes. The video does appear to show the participants.  

We have reports (here and here) that the Argentine Coast Guard (Prefectura Naval Argentina (PNA)) fired on and sank a Chinese fishing vessel (F/V), the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010, believed to have been fishing illegally, after the F/V failed to stop after shots were fired across its bow and it allegedly attempted to ram the Coast Guard vessel. The crew reportedly was rescued, without fatalities, four by the Argentine vessel and the rest of the crew by another Chinese F/V.

ArgentineCutter

Photo by Diegoventu: PNA Doctor Manuel Mantilla (GC-24), a sistership of the Argentine vessel involved.

The PNA vessel seen in the video, Prefecto Durbes (GC-28) is one of five offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) built in Spain for Argentina. The Mexican Navy also has six similar vessels with larger flight decks and more powerful engines. In size they slot between the Reliance Class and the Bear Class, being 67 meters (220 feet) overall. Unlike the Reliance class, they have a hangar for their version of the H-65.

In addition to machine guns, these ships are reportedly armed with a Bofors 40mm/70, but looking at the video, the location where the gun was mounted (on the platform forward of the bridge and one deck above the foc’sle) is vacant. This suggest that the damage was probably done by .50 cal. machine guns. We know from our Vietnam experience that .50 cal. can sink fishing vessels, but the ranges are very short. Looking at the video the ships appeared to be no more than 300 yards apart.

It is a bit surprising no casualties were reported, although the reports say no fatalities, they do not say no injuries so that is still a possibility. Did the crew of the OPV order the Chinese crew to abandon before sinking the F/V, or did they perhaps tell them where they were not going to shoot so that the crew could assemble safely? It does not sound like it. We have only this statement from an Argentine representative that after actions by the Chinese vessel,  “…the order was given to fire on different sections of the vessel, damaging it,” It is unlikely, but not impossible, the crew helped the ship sink to destroy any evidence of wrong doing.

European Concern for Maritime Cargo Security

The Irish Times is reporting that Europe has not attempted to track cargoes like the US Coast Guard does. In the article it was not apparent that the author was even aware that the US Coast Guard has such a system.

There is currently no comprehensive system to track shipments and cargos through EU ports and along its approximately 70,000km of coastline – a deficiency that has long been exploited by organised criminals and which could increasingly prove irresistible to terrorists too, say European security officials.

Sounds like an opportunity for some international cooperation.

US and Cuba Cooperate on Marine Conservation

BairdMaritime reports,

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA). The MOU aims to facilitate joint efforts concerning science, stewardship, and management regarding Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).”

Check it out for more detail.

Presumably, the Coast Guard will have some role in enforcing restrictions on operations in these areas. Apparently the CG has had good long term relations with their Cuban counterparts.