RealNews

Homeland security duties strain geriatric vessels

As this 270-foot ship sliced through the North Atlantic more than 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast, an ensign in the engine control room uttered words that are among the scariest that can be heard at sea. “I have a Class Bravo fire” in a diesel generator, Ensign Chris Dufresne, 23, told officers on the bridge via ship intercom. Such fires, fed by fuel or oil, can be catastrophic. Following procedure, Dufresne hit a button that killed the ship’s huge engines, leaving nearly 2,000 tons of steel dead in the water. He and several other crewmen then evacuated the engine room, clambering up a ladder through a hatch to the deck. Fortunately, the “fire” was just a drill, but it could easily have been real. As virtually all seagoing “Coasties” know, the Coast Guard’s geriatric fleet of cutters has become prone to dreaded engine-room fires. For years, the Coast Guard’s oceangoing ships and helicopters have been showing their age. Some were built in the 1940s, some in the 1960s, and most have been deteriorating, in part, because of the often-harsh maritime environment in which they operate.The new needs of homeland security–with requirements for additional patrols–have accelerated the breakdown of obsolete vessels. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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