“US Border Patrol boat damaged by gunfire in brief encounter on Rio Grande” –Baird Maritime

Baird Maritime is reporting that about 50 shots were fired at a Customs and Border Protection boat and its crew, operating on the Rio Grande near Fronton, Texas, on Friday, Aug. 9. The boat was hit several times, but there were no injuries.

This looks to be about ten miles below Falcon Lake. This recalls an incident in 2010. Blog discussion here.

“Lighthouse Act – 7 August 1789” –BRYMAR

A little late, but I am passing this little tidbit of Coast Guard history along from BRYMAR consulting.

Lighthouse Act – 7 August 1789

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The Lighthouse Act was the ninth statute adopted by the First Congress of the United States. It provided for the voluntary cession by the various states of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers to the federal government and tasked the Secretary of the Treasury with building and maintaining the aids to maritime navigation. The Lighthouse Establishment (later named the United States Light House Service) is the oldest of the various components of the present-day United States Coast Guard, joining in 1939.

“sUAS Extend Coast Guard Capabilities in the Inland Rivers” –USNI

160919-N-AT101-177 GULF OF MEXICO (Sept. 19, 2016) Cadet 1st Class Hanson Oxford, a student at the U.S. Air Force Academy, operates an unmanned aerial system aboard a rigid hull inflatable boat during exercise Black Dart, Sept. 19. Black Dart is the largest Department of Defense (DoD) live-fly, live-fire, counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) technology demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Maddelin Angebrand/Released)

A thought provoking article from the US Naval Institute looking at ways small unmanned air systems (sUAS) have been used, or might be used, in support of Coast Guard missions in inland areas.

The Coast Guard apparently includes systems as large as ScanEagle in the sUAS category. The USNI post notes,

“Individual Coast Guard units are currently prohibited from procuring and operating their own sUAS until the Coast Guard can establish a program to provide the appropriate systems and training to operators.”

The discussion here is not about systems as large as ScanEagle, but rather small, off the shelf systems, costing less than $5,000. The costs of these systems is so low, and the potential impact so great, perhaps the Coast Guard should have a program to procure a small number of these systems for units that can make a case for them, as prototypes for future deployment. Ground rules might specify a one year trial period and periodic feedback.

Marines are already starting to deploy these at the squad level. Presumably there must be a contract for them. Maybe they are already on GSA schedule.

Drugs Smuggling By Container

File photo shows the MSC Gayane. Photo: MarineTraffic.com

Three recent incidents of drugs being smuggled by containers aboard ship.

In the US:

June 18 (Reuters) – Federal authorities seized 16.5 tons of cocaine worth more than $1 billion from a ship in Philadelphia in one of the largest drug seizures in U.S. history, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.

Federal, state and local law enforcement agents on Monday boarded the MSC Gayane, a cargo ship docked in Philadelphia’s Packer Marine Terminal, and found cocaine in seven shipping containers, according to a criminal complaint filed in Philadelphia federal court.

Since then, four additional arrests have been made. The Customs and Border Protection news release is here. Crew members facilitated the loading of the drugs.

August 1, a vessel docked in Felixstowe, UK where the vessel was boarded and authorities found approximately 398 kilograms of heroin hidden among towels and bathrobes.

Germany seized 4.5 tonnes of cocaine from a container at the port of Hamburg, marking that nation’s biggest drugs haul to date. The shipping container in that case was loaded in Montevideo, Uruguay and bound for Antwerp.

“Coast Guard Awards Contract for 47-Foot Motor Lifeboat Service Life Extension Program” –CG-9

47-Foot Motor Life Boat (MLB) 47231 from Station Morrow Bay, 4 Dec 2007. Photo by Mike Baird

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) reports award of a contract for service life extension work on its 47 foot motor lifeboats. 


The Coast Guard on Aug. 5 awarded a firm fixed price indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to Birdon America Inc. of Denver, Colorado, to perform work supporting the service’s 47-foot Motor Lifeboat (MLB) service life extension program (SLEP). The initial award to complete the detail design and service life extension work on the first vessel is valued near $6.5 million, with a total projected contract value of close to $190 million to complete the MLB SLEP over the 10-year contract period. The initial work for detail design and the first vessel will be performed at a subcontractor facility on the West Coast, Fred Wahl Marine Construction along the Umpqua River in Reedsport, Oregon. Once in full production, a second subcontracted work facility is planned to be opened on the East Coast.

The 47-foot MLB is the Coast Guard’s primary search-and-rescue platform operating in surf and heavy weather conditions. It has self-righting capability and the ability to operate in winds up to 50 knots, seas up to 30 feet, and surf up to 20 feet. The service’s fleet of more than 100 MLBs has been in service for 15 to 21 years and is approaching the end of its planned 25-year service life. The operational need for these unique capabilities in search-and-rescue, maritime law enforcement, and contingency response remains high.

The SLEP will extend the useful life of the MLB by 20 years; SLEP work will be performed on a minimum of 107 MLBs and a maximum of 117 MLBs. The main work will be on systems experiencing technical obsolescence: the main propulsion, electrical, steering, towing and navigation systems, as well as replacement of areas of the hull and structure that have demonstrated high failure rates. Additionally, efforts to enhance human system integration will be made where practical to do so. The original operational capabilities and characteristics of the 47-foot MLB will not change.

CG Exercises Option for Webber Class WPCs #51-56

The Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson crew mans the rail during sea trials off the coast of Miami, Florida, on Dec. 12, 2016. The ship will be the second fast response cutter stationed in Cape May, New Jersey, and is scheduled for commissioning in early 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Eric D. Woodall)

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) reports the exercise of a contract with Bollinger for construction of six more Webber class WPCs (Fast Response Cutters or FRCs).

The Coast Guard exercised a contract option for production of six more Sentinel-class FRCs and associated deliverables worth just over $297.4 million with Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana, July 31.

This option brings the total number of FRCs under contract with Bollinger to 56 and the total value of the contract to approximately $1.23 billion. The contract has a potential value of $1.42 billion if options to procure all 58 cutters are exercised. The FRCs built under this option will be delivered beginning late 2022 into late 2023. To date, there are 33 FRCs in operational service.

Things to note.

  • The $1.23B referred to did not pay for all 56 vessels, only those purchased under the most recent contract.
  • Buying in quantity lowers the price. Since this is a long running contract and we have ordered the maximum number Bollinger can build in a year, increasing efficiencies have lowered the per ship price from over $60M to less than $50M.
  • While this program will likely continue to deliver vessels through at least 2024, we are nearing the end of this program, at least in terms of contracting. FY2020 may be the last year that will include money for WPC new construction, if it includes funding for six more vessels and 64 is final number constructed. This would include 58 in the program of record and six to replace the six WPBs in PATFORSWA (four of which have already been funded).