In 2019, the German coast guard received three new customs vessels into its fleet. All three are fitted with twin mtu 8V 2000 M72 diesel engines from Rolls-Royce, which are renowned for their high power density, low power-to-weight ratio, ease of operation and maintenance, compact design and long maintenance intervals. Able to accelerate up to 22 knots – roughly equivalent to 41 km per hour – the vessels are ideal for high-speed pursuit of smugglers and other criminals. The customs administration had submitted an EU-wide invitation to tender for the three vessels and commissioned the Baltic Workboats shipyard to build them.
Luise Hoppe from communications management at the authority explained that by choosing mtu-brand engines, the customs agency has decided to stay with technology that it knows and trusts – the engine's optimal power-to-weight ratio in particular having a positive effect on other parameters such as speed and stability. In fact, numerous customs vessels are powered by similar mtu units: “We've already accumulated considerable experience of mtu-brand 2000 M72 engines, which power vessels such as the Usedom and Glückstadt, and were also retrofitted to our 28-m Priwall and Jade customs boats.”
In fact, a total of 16 mtu 2000 M72 units are in service in the customs authority's fleet. As Luise Hoppe explained: “Having this large number enables us to achieve a more cost-effective spare parts inventory. It also means consistent standards, so swapping around personnel, in particular technical personnel, is not really a problem.”
The three new coast guard customs vessels are 24 m long and 6.5 m wide, each weighing in at 57 tons and costing around 4 million euros to build over a period of eighteenth months. On the high seas, they will be maneuvered by 6-man crews.
The Bremen, the first vessel, was commissioned by the customs authority in March 2019 and is in service in the Outer Weser estuary and on the stretch of North Sea between Bremen und Wangerooge. In April, its sister vessel, the Gelting, was stationed in Flensburg, and patrols the Baltic from the Flensburg Firth down to the waters off the Kiel Firth, taking in the Bay of Gelting, after which the boat is named. By August 2019, the third vessel, the Darss, had rounded off the trio. The Darss takes over from the Usedom, now stationed in Rostock, patrolling the strip of coastal water between Bukspitze and Darsser Ort.
Maritime customs mission
The customs agency is one of several federal agencies and authorities that together form the coast guard – these include The Federal Police, the Federal Customs Service, the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, and the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, which together patrol sea borders in the Baltic and North Seas as well as the water borders on Lake Constance. While their main mission lies in the prevention of smuggling, combating cross-border criminality, and the levying of customs duties and taxes, the customs authority remit as part of the coast guard also includes environmental protection of the sea and the rescue of those in distress at sea. With their fleet of 32 vessels, customs agency personnel not only patrol a 3,660 km stretch of coast and 15,055 km2 of coastal waters, but also Germany's Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends far into the North and Baltic seas and covers some 48,050 km2. Lake Constance is also in the patrol area covered by the maritime law enforcement agencies.