Coast Guard Station Venice, La., received a new 45-foot Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) on Nov. 8, 2012, to replace the first of the station’s two 41-foot utility boats (UTB). For the unit, the RB-M provides a much needed upgrade in capability, and, for the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate, it’s the latest example of a mature acquisition project where such deliveries have become business as usual.
“Our vendor, Marinette Marine, and the Project Resident Office (PRO) are doing a great job of delivering an incredibly high quality boat on time and on budget,” said Capt. Shannon McCullar, the Coast Guard’s RB-M project manager. “The project is really in a sweet spot—we are delivering a needed capability, and it’s been very well received in the field.”
The RB-M replaces the Service’s aging 41-foot and other non-standard UTBs. The UTB fleet has reached the end of its 25-year economic service life, resulting in increased costs for routine and unexpected maintenance as the older boats experience higher rates of mechanical failures. The new RB-Ms bring improvements in performance, speed, efficiency and reliability, as well as being more economical to own and operate. The boats were engineered to incorporate human factors concepts, which decrease crew fatigue over long patrols. The result: Coast Guard operators are able to respond more quickly and arrive on scene better able to carry out their missions.
“The RB-M is a much more capable boat than the 41-foot UTBs it’s replacing,” McCullar said. “It is over-performing them in every way, to the point where the RB-M has even been able to take on some of the missions of the 47-foot Motor Lifeboats.”
In the case of Station Venice, the RB-M comes just in time. The station is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River, with missions including search and rescue and fisheries and maritime law enforcement in one of the nation’s busiest and most economically important waterways. Two UTBs and two 25-foot Defender-class Safe Boats are the station’s means to patrol more than 5,000 square miles of Louisiana coastline including parts of the Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Covering such a great distance, the RB-M’s improved response time can save lives.
The RB-M delivered to Station Venice is the 108th boat delivered to the front lines. In October, the Coast Guard also delivered RB-Ms to Station Bellingham, Wash., and Station Eaton’s Neck, N.Y.
“The RB-M is a very capable vessel," said Chief Warrant Officer Steve Pollock, Eatons Neck Station’s commanding officer. "This new boat will help us better serve the citizens of Long Island and Connecticut, and will provide a great platform for conducting our missions on Long Island Sound.”
As part of the delivery process to the front lines, the Acquisition Directorate and the PRO have a transition team in place, which helps the stations prepare for the new assets, teaching boat crews and support staff both how to operate them and how to maintain them. The success of the new vessels and having a mature production line in place has allowed the Acquisition Directorate to shift more of its focus to helping transition the assets to operation and sustainment.
“As the RB-Ms are delivered, we are working to ensure a smooth transition to sustainment, so that we have total visibility of the parts, inventory and scheduled maintenance,” McCullar said. “How we do this for the RB-M creates a model for sustaining all the Coast Guard’s modernized boats.”
Although 418-foot National Security Cutters (NSC) and 154-foot Fast Response Cutters (FRC) are the new Coast Guard assets that get the most attention, the RB-M is nevertheless a good example of how successful Coast Guard acquisition programs can be. The larger cutters have more complex acquisition project plans and require a longer period of time to develop, build and deliver. However, the common ground between the RB-M procurement and these bigger ships is that they all benefit from the application of a disciplined process that includes professional project management, production oversight and forward-planning for sustainment. In recent years, the Coast Guard has focused on developing this process, which already has paid dividends as new assets become part of the fleet. The RB-M project now is delivering an average of two boats each month to stations across the country.
RB-Ms are built by Marinette Marine, in Manitowoc, Wisc., and Kvichak Marine Industries, in Seattle. The Coast Guard has ordered 166 boats. The next deliveries are scheduled for November and December 2012, and include Station Charleston, S.C., Station Vallejo, Calif., and Station Port O’Connor, Texas. The project will deliver the final boat of the current order in September 2014.For more information on the RB-M project, please visit http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/rbm/default.asp