The new addition is badly needed. The previous 110-foot cutters were good vessels, but they’re worn out and that’s led to a litany of well-documented maintenance problems that are mainly plaguing the ship’s engineering plants.
But with the addition of the fast response cutters in the Coast Guard’s Miami-based 7th District, all that is changing now, according to Rear Adm. William D. Baumgartner, district commander.
“It’s a major step forward from the 110-foot that it replaces,” Baumgartner said. “It’s got more speed and range and that significantly helps our ability to do our missions here in the 7th District.”
He said the ship, 44 feet longer than its predecessor and with a hull design that gives the vessel better “seakeeping ability” – Coast Guard parlance for saying the Webber can handle rough seas and still stay on station and be effective – will significantly expand the patrol capability in his district.
Baumgartner says this class of ship will “expand the footprint” of the service not only with the range of the vessel, which can stay out five to seven days without resupply, but also the state-of-the-art electronic suite that can communicate with other U.S. law enforcement agencies and vessels as well as being sophisticated enough to operate easily with U.S. and other country’s naval vessels.
“It’s a huge capability for a ship of this size,” Baumgartner said. “It’s a significant game changer for us in reliability and ability to accomplish our missions.”
The Webber arrived Feb. 6 in Miami from Lockport, La.-based Bollinger Shipyard where the class of ships are being built and will spend the next few months preparing for operations and continue post-delivery training activities.
That scene will play out many more times in the near future, as Baumgartner said the plan is for a new Sentinel-class cutter to arrive in Miami about every 90 days.
“The first six will be homeported in Miami and they’ll operate throughout the 7th District, wherever we need them,” he said. “After that, the plan is to put the next six in Key West, Fla., and the six after that will base out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.”
The basic specs of the boats are impressive and pure Coast Guard. At 154 feet long, they displace 353 metric tons, 43 feet longer and more than double the 162-metric-ton displacement of the Island-class boats.
With a steel hull and aluminum superstructure, the Sentinel class uses a proven, in-service parent craft design based on the Damen Stan Patrol 4708 designed by Damen Shipbuilding in the Netherlands.
This design has been proven to operate easily in sea state 4 – meaning up to 8-foot seas – but in 2011, the Coast Guard made a structural design change that applied a higher technical standard. It is now capable of performing in all expected operating conditions, including sea state 6 – meaning up to 20-foot seas – throughout its planned 20-year service life.