Preparations for big new container ships on the West Coast picked up a notch Wednesday when the Port of Long Beach, Calif., welcomed the first of two new 108’x35’ fireboats to replace the port’s 1980s-era responder vessels with 400% more firefighting power.

The Protector, built by Foss Maritime Co. at its Foss Seattle Shipyard, mounts 10 water cannons with a capacity to throw more than 41,000 gpm, or four times the output of the port’s present fire boats. Pumping range is 600’ and higher than a 20-story building, enough power to project water or foam “anywhere aboard the world’s largest container ships and oil tankers,” according to a statement from port officials.

The multi-mission design by Robert Allan Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, has the capability to protect its crew and operate amid chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Water rescue, including vessel dewatering, towing and dive support is in its capabilities. The fireboat is equipped with medical treatment facilities for EMS and paramedics, boom deployment to contain spills, an onboard crane, and can serve as an operations command center. A sistership, Vigilance, is still under construction by Foss.

“We have to be prepared for any potential hazard,” said Lori Ann Guzmán, president of the Long Beach Harbor Commission. “Protector is a major improvement in our emergency response capabilities, helping us to safeguard both the Port and our community.”

The fireboat project team and partners include the Port and Fire Department staff; Foss and Robert Allan; construction support by Jensen Maritime Consultants, Seattle; and the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Construction cost for both vessels is $51.6 million, including $18.5 million in grant funding from Homeland Security's Port Security Grant Program.

The boats will replace the 88’6”x21’x6’, 10,000-gpm fireboats Challenger and Liberty. After a troubled early development, the vessels have served the port since the late 1980s.

Those fireboats were designed for a time when Long Beach handled containerships of 4,500 TEU cargo capacity. Now, the port regularly sees 18,000 TEU vessels call, and even larger ships are anticipated.

On the new boats, propulsion comes from a pair of Caterpillar 3512C main engines, combining for 2,012 hp, turning Voith Schneider propellers. for a top speed of 12 knots. The boats are designed for low wake wash of less than 12″ at 8 knots, and an onsite endurance of five days. The wheelhouses have both forward and aft control stations, where pilots can use low-speed maneuvering and zero-speed stationkeeping with the Voith Schneider propulsion system.

Two more Caterpillar 3512C engines and one Cat C12 engine are harnessed with the drive engines to power seven firefighting pumps, ranging in size from 2,000 gpm to 8,000 gpm for the total aggregate capacity of 41,000 gpm.

The largest of 10 monitors can deliver 12,000 gpm at a 600′ range, exceeding National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Type II fireboat requirements. Nine other monitors range from 1,500 to 6,000 gpm. Two of those monitors can direct 6,000 gpm of foam at a range of 500′. For shoreside supply, the boats can put out up to 22,000 gpm.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.