19 meter (62 foot) Motor Surf Boat, Maybe a Small Port WPB Alternative

Earlier, when I discussed  developing a WPB replacement, I was primarily concerned that in addition to a SAR response, that the Coast Guard in major ports have a response to unconventional maritime attacks by terrorists or other hostile forces. But there are also a number of WPBs in small ports where such attacks would have far less impact and consequently are far less likely. The US shipbuilder Metal Shark has new 87 foot patrol boats in series production for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) that were evolved from the Marine Protector class. They might fulfill the needs of these smaller ports. They appear to be relatively cheap. Looks like the last group had a cost per boat of about $4.3M each. That is way less than the approx. $60M we are paying for the more capable FRCs. Still there might be a better alternative,

A recent Marine Log report that the EU is buying nine large motor lifeboats to help the Turkish Coast Guard deal with their immigrant crisis, got me to thinking that perhaps, at these small ports, what is really needed is a larger motor lifeboat. Specs for the Damen designed Turkish Coast Guard boats are here. They are apparently a version of the Netherlands own motor lifeboat.

Damen SAR 1906 motor surf boats

There has been a lot of work on development of Motor Surf Boats since the 47 footers and the now over 50 year old 52 footers. Canada and the Netherlands have both made such craft over 60 feet in length. The RAFNAR hull form looks particularly promising. They may not be more survivable than the ones we have now, but they may be better in other ways. Where we don’t need the long term endurance of a WPB, we could have a boat of about Marine Protector class size or perhaps some what smaller, that could operate with a smaller crew, be faster, tow equally large or larger vessels, reduce G-forces on the crew, and still be able to operate in weather where the legacy WPBs could not. There might also be Foreign Military Sales potential for such a vessel. 

“Khulna delivers Bangladesh Coast Guard patrol boat trio, lays keels of two more” –Baird Maritime

CGS Sonar Bangla moments before being launched on May 23, 2018

Baird Maritime has reported that the Bangladesh Coast Guard has taken delivery of three new cutters.

These are based on the Bangladesh Navy’s Padma-class patrol vessels

They are similar in size to the Webber class Fast Response Cutters. Specs for the Bangladesh vessels are:

  • Displacement: 350 tons
  • Length: 165.35 ft (50.40 m)
  • Beam: 24.61 ft (7.50 m)
  • Draft: 13.45 ft (4.10 m)
  • Speed: 23 knots
  • Endurance: 7 days
  • Crew: 45

Armament for the Coast Guard versions of vessel is two Oerlikon 25mm, while that for the Navy version is two 37mm and two 20mm. They are also reported to be capable of minelaying.

Wikipedia indicates up to 23 of these indigenously produced craft are planned (presumably Navy and Coast Guard).

“First narco-USV” –Covert Shores

The small open-topped ‘punt’ style craft had a single steerable outboard motor controlled by a simple GPS or radio control unit. The modest payload was two packages of marijuana totaling 37 kilograms.

Covert Shores reports on the first use of an unmanned surface vessel for drug smuggling that I am aware of.

This particular attempt was over a relatively short distance, and employed only a simple outboard to smuggle a small quantity of Marijuana, but I think we can expect to see more of this. The autopilot electronics are simple and cheap. I don’t expect the smugglers would worry about the more difficult problems of collision avoidance and following the rules of the road.

Obviously there would be an advantage to the smugglers in reducing the “manning cost,” Removing the crew also means, the smuggling craft could be made more stealthy. Perhaps more importantly it would mean that when a shipment is intercepted, there will be no one on board that can be interrogated, possibly providing intelligence that might lead to the leadership of the criminal organization.

“U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter visits Fiji” –News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 750) takes on fuel and supplies in Honolulu prior to departing on the cutter’s Western Pacific patrol, June 18, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Stratton and crew will engage in professional exchanges and capacity building exercises with partner nations and patrol and conduct operations as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jasmine Mieszala

Below is a Coast Guard press release. As you probably know Stratton is on the way to the Western Pacific, replacing the Bertholf in support of PACOM missions to build capacity and reinforce norms of international behavior. We have a long standing obligation to the island nations of the Micronesia. Good to see them getting more attention. Western Pacific also includes a very large chunk of the US EEZ, which has been underserved in the past. 

LAUTOKA, Fiji — Crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) moored Thursday in Lautoka, marking the cutter’s first international port call of their Western Pacific patrol.

Stratton, a 418-foot National Security Cutter, departed its homeport of Alameda, California, June 5 for a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific. Operating under the tactical control of commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, the cutter and crew are engaging in professional exchanges and capacity building exercises with partner nations and patrolling and conducting operations as directed.

While underway, Stratton’s crew exercised the recently signed Fiji-U.S. bilateral shiprider agreement, which allows enforcement authorities from the two nations to jointly counter illicit activity at sea. Together, Stratton’s crew and an embarked Fijian fisheries officer, Josaia Maiwai, patrolled the United States and Fijian Exclusive Economic Zones.

“The United States is firmly committed to building on our countries’ shared interest in governance and security in the maritime commons,” said Capt. Bob Little, commanding officer of the Stratton. “Fiji has proven to be a strong partner in our efforts to counter transnational criminal activity in the Pacific such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. We are making great strides in our ability to jointly protect our sovereign resources from those who do not recognize international laws.”

While in port, the crew will have opportunities to explore Fiji and interact with local citizens through cultural and professional exchanges, community relations projects and island tours.

“House Committee Passes Two-Year Coast Guard Authorization Act” –USNI, Includes Provision for Government Shutdown Pay

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

The US Naval Institute News Services reports the Coast Guard reauthorization bill out of committee. Significantly it includes language that would allow Coast Guard personnel to be continued to be paid, even if there is another government shutdown.

“The House committee authorizing Coast Guard activities approved a measure that would guarantee the service’s active duty and civilian personnel are paid in the event of a federal government shutdown, as part of a two-year spending authorization bill.”

This is only the action of a committee, but it is likely to pass since this two year authorization bill enjoys bipartisan support and is not nearly as contentious as a budget bill.

There was also language supporting a new Great Lakes icebreaker. That in turn was supported by some earlier criticism, that really reflects the shortage of operating funds the current Commandant has been talking about.

“The reliability [of Coast Guard icebreaking] was abysmal last year,” James Weakley, president of the Lake Carriers Association, said last week during a hearing before House Transportation subcommittee on the Coast Guard and maritime transportation. “Five of the nine icebreakers [assigned to the Great Lakes] were inoperable.”

NSC #11 to Go to Charleston

USCGC Stratton moored in San Diego, California. Photo by BryanGoff

The following is a Coast Guard HQ news release. It appears the final laydown for the NSC fleet is Charleston five, Alameda four, Honolulu two. I am a bit surprised more did not go to the Pacific but Charleston is closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones than Alameda.

U.S. Coast Guard announces homeport of newest National Security Cutter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard today announced that Charleston, South Carolina will be the home of the Service’s newest National Security Cutter.

“I am pleased to announce that Charleston, South Carolina will be the home of the Coast Guard’s 11th National Security Cutter,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. Construction on the 11th National Security Cutter is scheduled to begin by Spring of 2020. Charleston is already home to two of the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, the JAMES and HAMILTON. In 2017, the Coast Guard announced that the ninth and tenth National Security Cutters, currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, will join the Charleston-based National Security Cutter fleet in the coming years. Admiral Schultz further noted: “I am confident that the Charleston community is the right place for our Coast Guardsmen and their families to base these highly capable National Security Cutters with the global reach to respond to complex maritime threats and challenges.”

National Security Cutters are the most technologically-advanced vessels in the Coast Guard. They are capable of supporting maritime homeland security and defense missions. They safeguard the American people and promote our security in a complex and persistently-evolving maritime environment.

Grouping cutters of the same class is one critical variable in selecting homeports. Grouping cutters in the same location improves maintenance proficiency, streamlines logistics, and provides increased personnel flexibility.

The cutter is scheduled to arrive in 2024; its name has not yet been selected. This will be the fifth National Security Cutter assigned to Charleston.

“Antigua, Sprawling “Chinese Colony” Plan Across Marine Reserve Ignites Opposition” –The Guardian

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands. Antigua can be seen on the NE corner of the Caribbean. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons, author–Kmusser, all data from Vector Map.

There has been an interesting development in an area the Coast Guard frequents. The Guardian reports the Chinese are developing a part of the island of Antigua. Critics contend it will operate as a state within a state.

The 2000 acre development will include a seafood harvesting company.

“The master plan includes up to seven resorts, a shipping port (emphasis applied–Chuck), the country’s first four-lane highway, offshore “wealth management” centres, hospital and university facilities, a school, bank and a luxury golf community on adjacent uninhabited Guiana Island. The 400-acre industrial section includes steel and ceramic tile factories.”

The way the Chinese do things incrementally, this sounds suspiciously like it might be beginnings of a base.

At one time, Antigua was the site of NAVFAC Antigua, decommissioned 4 February 1984, an underwater listening station, part of the Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), which were used to track Soviet submarines.