Coastal custodians: Dynamics of patrol in a cost-conscious world
Sometimes coastal patrol is not about state-of-the-art sophistication. Sometimes it’s about getting the job done, safely, quickly and reliably. And, sometimes, all this can be achieved with the added bonus of cost-efficiency.
Coastal Patrol. It’s a simple enough couple of words, but they belie the diversity of tasks that are encompassed by the vessels that oversee it. Contained within these two words are operations as spectrally distinct from one another as fisheries protection and prevention of illegal immigration or overseeing the preservation of fragile marine environments and countering narcotics traffic.
With such divergent aims in mind you may expect that the vessels responsible would require a similarly broad range of state-of-the-art functionality and heavy weaponry. In many cases you would be right. However, equally there are cases when such things amount to nothing short of overkill. And overkill, in terms of marine capability, is expensive.
No guns blazing
Take Jamaica as an example. A good case study, representative of much of the Caribbean region. The Jamaica Defence Force has clear protocol in place for dealing with stop and board operations when on routine patrol. In the first instance, the Defence Force will communicate with a target vessel via VHF radio to inform those aboard of the intention to board. If this is ignored, further communication is issued via a loud hailer requesting the vessel to stop. If this fails – which is rare – a warning shot may be fired across the bow of the target.
The protocol goes much further than this, detailing how to act in self-defence for instance. However, it is noteworthy in the extreme that, in over four decades of operations, further escalation has not once been necessary.
What is required of the vessels the Defence Force employs, is that they be able to communicate effectively and reliably in order to put into action the initial stages of the described protocol. Should it be required, the vessel must then be able to give fast pursuit, in a range of sea states. An additional requirement is that the vessel be comfortable for those on board, in order that, even following prolonged periods at sea, they are able to carry out their work in an alert and safe manner. Furthermore, it almost goes without saying, the vessel must be as cost effective as can be without sacrificing its abilities.
An example of these requirements in action can be found in the Damen Stan Patrol 4207 – two of which are in operation with the Jamaica Defence Force. The Defence Force returned to Damen in 2016 for these vessels, having previously taken delivery of three Damen OPVs some years ago. The 4207 enables the efficient communication that patrolling requires. Communications devices are integrated in the helmsman’s seat. This affords him the opportunity to comfortably and safely take care of communications without diversion from patrol duties.
Take a bow
Then there’s the bow shape, which takes care of a number of the requirements described above at a single stroke. The first vessel to be built according to the philosophy of the Enlarged Ship , the 4207 is light, long and slender with a very deep v-shape.
The philosophy of the Enlarged Ship Concept is to improve the vessel’s seakeeping performance by making the vessel longer and more slender, at the same time maintaining – not increasing – the same performance capabilities, thus ensuring that cost-effectiveness is retained as a characteristic.
ENLARGED SHIP CONCEPT
Furthermore, as the vessel cuts smoothly through the waves with low vertical acceleration, zero slamming and reduced resistance, the bow shape also makes for a significant reduction in fuel consumption. In fact, the cost of enlarging a ship in this fashion equals just a 3% increase in the build cost, offset by a 6% increase in fuel efficiency and a significant 54% increase in transport efficiency. Further reductions in spend stem from the fact that the improved seakeeping extends the lifetime of both the vessel and its equipment.
Quick, capable & comfortable
Naturally, the standardisation philosophy behind the design also plays its part in keeping the costs down. The application of proven technology and series production helps to keep costs predictable and manageable. What’s more, the development of the vessel over successive generations goes a considerable way to ensuring reliability, good re-sale values and – crucially – fast delivery times. In fact, as the vessels are often built for stock, the duration between contract and delivery can be as little as a few months, as was the case with a recent order from the Jamaica Defence Force.
The benefits of this cannot be understated. Often, when it comes to fleet renewal times, speed is of the essence – coastal protection is, after all, a matter of national security – and replenishing capability is of the utmost importance. This fact is summed up neatly by independent defence analyst Sanjay Badri Maharaj in his article Coast Guards in the Western Hemisphere – the Dutch Connection, where he explains the 4207’s top-ranking position in the Caribbean saying:
“Damen’s ability to break into this market and then to dominate it is largely due to its ability to deliver craft quickly at reasonable prices. Speed of delivery cannot be understated …”
Standardisation is indeed a key feature of the vessel’s success and its advantages are broad. Having a fleet of vessels featuring the same and similar equipment and workability helps with providing training to crew, who can then easily adapt to working on multiple vessels. Similarly, the commonality encountered across the region as a result of the success of the Damen Stan Patrol range, makes for extra efficiency in joint, regional exercises.
The additional space provided by the extension also offers plenty of room for a high speed tender – covering the patrol’s need for speed – and to refuel and maintain it for maximum uptime. Comfort is also taken care of; not only in the improved seakeeping performance, but additionally in the details. For instance, the lengthening of the hull makes it possible to locate the wheelhouse one third of the vessel from the stern – precisely where motions are at their lowest. Further design features bring an additional focus to comfort, including floating floors and flexible engine mounts for low noise and vibration. Going beyond comfort, the bow shape’s reduced acceleration equals increased safety – the origins of the shape stem from considerations of safety on board.
Keep it simple, keep it sound
So, the key thing with these vessels, although it might appear surprising at first glance, is their simplicity. They do what they are required to do – and just that. All of the requirements are catered for without the additional time and cost implications of overly-sophisticated technology that serves, in the circumstances considered here at least, little purpose. But what about in different circumstances, when increased capabilities are required? Here again, standardisation provides the answer.
Using a modular design means that the vessel is easily upgraded with custom features – also modular – giving the 4207 the additional benefit of versatile flexibility. In this way, the standardisation philosophy delivers clients’ specific requirements, in record time, without sacrificing the benefits of serial production.
A further advantage can be found in the global reach of Damen. Over the past few years, Damen has developed its international network, to include local service hubs and partnerships with local suppliers. In this manner, Damen doesn’t just get patrol vessels faster into the water; it ensures their optimal condition and makes sure they stay there for longer.