Powerful Partnership helps USCG
Posted on May 17, 2019 by Chuck Mahnken, Images by USCG
Like the Coast Guard, the mtu team is always ready for whatever comes their way. And that’s good news since the FRC program’s success has led to expansion.
Every day, U.S. Coast Guard members are guided by their motto, Semper Paratus, which means “Always ready.” With more than 100,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways to protect, plus international waters, the USCG comprises 41,000 active-duty members manning thousands of marine vessels and aircraft. The fleet has grown stronger and more advanced with the addition of Fast Response Cutters (FRCs). More than 30 FRCs already in commission have seized tons of narcotics, interdicted thousands of illegal aliens and saved hundreds of lives. To keep a successful program such as the FRC moving forward, it takes a team of technicians, engineers and shipbuilders that also must always be ready.
Senior Coast Guard officials have described the FRC as an operational “game changer.” The 154-foot patrol craft has a top speed of 28 knots, state of the art command, control, communications and computer technology, and a stern launch system for the vessel’s 26-foot auxiliary boat. Built to accommodate a crew of 24 and endure a minimum of five days at sea, the ship is designed for rough seas and armed with a remote-controlled autocannon and four machine guns.
With twin 20-cylinder mtu Series 4000 M93L engines providing a total ship power output of 8,600kW, the FRC is ready to respond quickly to any situation. From the U.S. coastlines and inland waterways to U.S. interests at the Marshall Islands in the center of the Pacific, FRCs are deployed to conduct missions that include port, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense. mtu is fully responsible to make sure the propulsion system meets the contract’s requirements for speed, durability and mission capabilities.
Putting the best fleet forward
The FRC program started in 2012 with the USCGC Bernard C. Webber. Since then, more than 30 FRCs have been commissioned, each named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished him or herself in the line of duty. A total delivery of 50 vessels are under contract. Each is built by Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana.
The process of building an advanced ship, such as the Fast Response Cutter, marries time-honored naval architecture traditions with state-of-the-market technologies. It also takes a lot of teamwork. “This whole thing doesn’t get done without a team effort between Bollinger, mtu and the Coast Guard,” says Chris Remont, VP, government programs at Bollinger Shipyards. “The vessels have a contractual obligation to perform at a given speed and endurance. That’s the job of the propulsion system. mtu engines assist us in meeting the contract’s requirements to fulfill the Coast Guard mission.”
From the time the shipyard cuts the first steel to final commissioning, it takes about two years to build and test a Fast Response Cutter. The vessels move though stages of manufacturing, assembly and testing through Bollinger’s 60-acre shipyard. Every 10 weeks, a vessel moves down the line to another stage. Roughly 11 months into a vessel’s construction, the engines are loaded on board with a crane. Due to the ship’s tight quarters, the rest of the ship is built around the engines.
When construction is almost complete, the ship undergoes a series of sea trials. These are comprehensive government and industry inspections, tests, and evaluations of the condition and functionality of the ship as measured against the program’s requirements. When trials are concluded and the ship is judged to be satisfactory, the shipbuilder delivers it to the government. Delivery and Acceptance marks the date when the ship has been found acceptable for service and becomes government property. Commissioning follows many months of preparation, training, further inspection and testing. Only after successfully completing all the necessary steps can a ship be commissioned and earn the title “U.S. Coast Guard Cutter.”
All hands on deck
Remont says, “mtu is here from the time the engines arrive to when the shipyard delivers the vessel. We have a detailed construction and testing plan, and work together to make sure we’re not getting in each other’s way. There’s a very tight schedule. In order for us to meet our milestones, mtu must be at the ready. Fortunately, our relationship has never been stronger, and that comes down to a top-notch product line and support staff.”
There are three mtu technicians on site at the shipyards, in charge of overseeing the engine’s final configuration and electronic control system. Since the vessel is built in 10-week stages, the shipbuilders and mtu must be on the same page, with open lines of communication. Any technical issues must be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Success comes from the collaboration between mtu departments—from the United States and Germany.
A task force is in place with key mtu personnel from departments such as development, quality, applications and aftersales. If an issue arises, the team works together in an open and transparent manner, laying out all the information and concerns. This minimizes the time between identifying the issue and resolving it.
“Everybody has their own job to do, their responsibility, and expertise. When each play their part and do it in a group that understands and allows each other to do their role, we become much more efficient and react quicker to implement fixes,” says Scott Hanson, senior manager, mtu Large Engine Service.
Building trust and confidence
mtu’s responsiveness reflects the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Always ready” principles. This high level of preparation and expertise is appreciated by Allen Harker, the U.S. Coast Guard’s contracting officer for the FRC program. Harker has worked on the project since it was awarded in 2008. Over this time, the bond between the Coast Guard and mtu has grown stronger.
“The entire mtu team goes above and beyond. Their work under pressure is exceptional,” says Harker. “These are sophisticated engines. Right now, they’re exceeding our performance requirements and expectations. And that’s because of the team of mtu people who stand behind the product. If there’s an issue, they listen. I commend them on their responsiveness and commitment. There’s a huge amount of mutual trust and confidence between us. And that’s what you should have between a buyer and supplier.”
The mission continues
With a contract to build and commission 50 Fast Response Cutters, the shipyards are as busy as ever. Improvements to the propulsion systems—the heart of each vessel—have enabled more missions. Like the Coast Guard, the mtu team is always ready for whatever comes their way. And that’s good news since the FRC program’s success has led to expansion. Last summer, the Coast Guard exercised a contract option worth just over $294.4 million for the production of six more FRCs.
“The FRC’s propulsion system is the key component of the ship. Having engines with high reliability and availability has made a profound effect on our missions. There’s a lot at stake. All those big stories you see in the news, from the search and rescues to the $200 million drug busts, it doesn’t happen without engines—and people—you can count on.” says Harker.