The U.S. Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutters (FRC) were front and center for a dedication ceremony last Friday at Bollinger Shipyards’ Lockport, La., facilities. The shipyard hopes to build as many as 58 of the 154’x25’5″ Sentinel class patrol boats over the coming years. Bollinger currently has contracts to build 12 FRCs with a contract value of $597 million. The Bernard C. Webber, the first of the FRCs, was delivered to the USCG in Miami late last year but isn’t scheduled for commissioning until April.
“The Sentinal class is going to raise the bar,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. told the large and enthusiastic crowd at the ceremony. “The Sentinel class Fast Response Cutter is an exceptional platform for Coast Guard operations. These cutters are a game changer for our service.”
The Sentinel class cutters are designed to replace the agency’s 110′ Island class patrol boats that were also built by Bollinger. In fact, the new cutters represent the third cutter series built by the family-owned south Louisiana shipyard, more than any other boatyard in the U.S.
“This is a great day in the Bollinger family history. This is a great day for all our employees and family members who work so hard to build these ships,” Boysie Bollinger, president, CEO, and chairman of the shipyard, said in his remarks. “It’s a great day for the Coast Guard, and it’s a great day in the life of the Sentinel class to come to life for the Coast Guard.”
Each of the new cutters is named after a fallen Coast Guard serviceman or servicewoman. “It’s so exciting that these ships are named for enlisted heroes of the Coast Guard, and what impressive people they were,” Bollinger said.
The FRC uses a proven, in-service parent craft design based on the Damen Stan Patrol 4708. The Sentinel class cutters feature a required flank speed of 28 knots and a stabilized, remotely operated 25mm chain gun and four .50 caliber machine guns.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal voiced his appreciation for not only the vessels that the Coast Guard is building as part of its recapitalization program, but also the men and women who crew the boats. “These men and women run toward danger, not away from it,” he said, “so we can be safe.”
The new cutters must also have a minimum endurance rate of five days at sea and be capable of keeping underway operations for a minimum of 2,500 hours annually, using the latest technologically advanced command, control, communications and computer technology that will be interoperable with the USCG’s existing and future assets.
“The work on this fleet alone will mean 850 direct jobs and 2,400 indirect jobs [for Louisiana],” said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who serves on the Armed Services Committee. “That’s important for Louisiana and a great cause for celebration.”
Main missions for the FRCs will include security for ports, waterways, and coastlines; drug and illegal immigrant law enforcement; search and rescue; national-defense operations; and fishery patrols.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) mentioned the fact that the U.S. needs a new icebreaker, as we’ve fallen behind countries like China and Sweden in state-of-the-art icebreaking abilities. “My first priority, of course, will be the ships the Coast Guard needs here to do the work,” said Landrieu, who chairs the Appropriation Subcommittee on Homeland Security. “I’m going to fight to keep that going.”