Missions, History, and Ship Design
USCGC PENOBSCOT BAY is the seventh of nine ships in the U.S. Coast Guard’s class of small icebreakers. In commission since January 4, 1985, PENOBSCOT BAY is one of two WTGB class cutters homeported at Bayonne Ocean Terminal. PENOBSCOT BAY’s warm weather missions include law enforcement, search and rescue, aids to navigation, cadet training, and port, waterways, and coastal security (PWCS). During the winter months, PENOBSCOT BAY conducts icebreaking operations on the Hudson River to assist commercial ship and barge traffic as far north as Albany, New York.
“Bay” class cutters are named for various bays located in the United States. PENOBSCOT BAY draws its name from the body of water located on Maine’s rugged coast near Bangor, Maine. The cutter was homeported at Governor's Island, New York, until the Coast Guard closed its operations there in 1995.
WTGB class cutters began service on the Great Lakes in 1978. The first five ships of the class are stationed there and the remaining four of the class operate along the northeast Atlantic coast. The 140-foot icebreaking tugs are the most efficient icebreakers of their size in the world. They have a high horsepower-to-displacement ratio, which provides ample power to maneuver easily in ice. Two Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines provide 2,500 horsepower to a single shaft via a diesel-electric propulsion system. A unique hull design with a low length-to-beam ratio allows the cutter to break a wide track in the ice. The ship also generates a pronounced wake designed specifically for icebreaking. The combined hull design and horsepower enable the Bay class cutters to break up to 30 inches of solid freshwater ice without the need to “back and ram.” A hull air lubrication system, known as a “bubbler,” forces low pressure air from ports located along the lower hull and keel. Lubricating the hull with a mixture of air and water further reduces friction and improves icebreaking capacity.
Crew fatigue is reduced through the use of automated systems and comfortable living quarters. Abundant fuel capacity allows extended mission duration. The large, enclosed pilothouse provides excellent visibility and is outfitted with modern navigation and communications equipment. Two fire monitors on top of the pilothouse are capable of delivering 1200 gallons of water per minute over 200 feet for firefighting.
The ship’s standard complement of seventeen includes three officers and 14 enlisted crewmembers.