Protectors on the waves
Protecting national interests at sea – a country’s first line of defence in so many cases – is a diverse business. Differing threats and circumstances combine to ensure that different responses are required depending on the location in question and the task at hand. Perhaps paradoxically, a standardised vessel design can be the most effective solution for tackling this diversity. Combining a proactive response to client feedback and up-to-the-minute technological sophistication, the Damen Stan Patrol 5009 leads the way.
In a previous article we discussed the fact that coastal patrol does not always demand state-of-the-art sophistication from the vessels employed for the task. In many cases, securing a national coastline is more about speed, stability and, crucially, economy. However, the scope of coastal patrol is broad, encompassing diverse duties and security threats. This demands a coastal patrol portfolio of vessels be similarly broad; in some cases advanced technology is a requirement for getting the job done safely and effectively.
The Damen Stan Patrol (SPa) 4207, as discussed in the article referred to above, is a cost-efficient, reliable solution for when coastal patrol requires a straightforward, constabulary approach. Its bigger sister, the Spa 5009, sits at the other end of the spectrum; complex, refined and ready for anything.
Taking it to the extreme
Like the 4207, the 5009 is based on the Enlarged Ship Concept; an economically efficient way to improve ergonomics and seakeeping performance. The 5009 however, takes the concept to the extreme. The 50 metre patrol vessel features the revolutionary Sea Axe Hull – it is, in fact, the first patrol vessel ever to do so.
The Axe Bow is the result of 5 years of collaborative research initiated by the Technical University of Delft and carried out with the cooperation of the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Netherlands Maritime Research Institute (MARIN), the US Coast Guard and Damen.
Cutting like a blade
The Sea Axe takes its name from the side view of the bow; the keel line slopes down forward and the sheer line slopes up – strongly resembling the lines of an axe blade. The slender nature and depth of this bow, with no flare, ensures that, where a conventional vessel might bounce on the waves, the 5009 cuts effortlessly through.
Comfortable, quick & cost-efficient
The advantages proffered by this are substantial. Not only does this most optimal of seakeeping performances protect the vessel’s construction, it brings significantly increased safety and comfort for those on board. It doesn’t stop there; the elegant bow shape also has a considerable impact on reducing fuel consumption.
A key ingredient in the extraordinariness of the SPa 5009 is its bridge – Alphatron’s AlphaBridge. Wishing to apply the same philosophy of modularisation used in its shipbuilding, Damen approached Alphatron in the mid-2000s with some demanding challenges.
The idea was to create a bridge that could be installed, quickly, on a range of different vessels, whilst maintaining commonality. More than that, it had to conform to Damen’s tough price-quality ratio requirements. In the first instance, the new bridge was applied to a Damen Stan Patrol 4207. Following this, Damen worked together with Alphatron on the development of the bridge for use on the Damen Fast Crew Supplier vessels. With 30, 40 and 50-metre vessels to cater for, the application covered the range via a standardised foundation, with much success. Then came the Stan Patrol 5009.
Gerard van den Baard, General Manager Sales at Alphatron, takes up the story. “My colleague, Bas Meijers, worked very closely with Damen on the development of this bridge – he can, in many ways be considered the spiritual father of the concept. We got the message that this should be something special. It needed to provide an interface between communications and navigation equipment, featuring a wide range of different data. For cost-efficiency it required use of commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, all the while retaining defence and security capabilities.”
Quite a tall order. Alphatron’s response though, was nothing short of brilliance.
Our approach is based on the careful balancing of three factors – ergonomics, technology and aesthetics.
Whilst ergonomics and technology may speak for themselves, aesthetics is not necessarily the first thing that crosses the mind when considering defence-related performance capability. Gerard explains the thinking: “Aesthetics are actually very important. If the operator likes the look of what they are working with, they are far more likely to adapt to it.”
There’s no question of it; the Alphabridge is certainly a looker – it’s more like stepping into the command centre of a spaceship than a workship. The beauty however, is more than skin deep – this bridge functions, and functions well.
Take the 46-inch screen as an example. The screens display information which the operator can quickly switch between a range of functions – including thermal imaging that can pick out a person at 10km and a small vessel at 15km. The screens can be easily viewed by several operators simultaneously and the increased visibility offered goes a long way in reducing operator fatigue and enhanced situational awareness. To an industry that had never seen such an approach before, however, there was some initial scepticism. “Damen’s response to this was simple,” states Gerard. “They said ‘build one’.”
Build one they did and with certified success – the AlphaBridge is now, deservedly, to be found on a great number of vessels across the maritime industry.
Despite being a state-of-the-are vessel, the Stan Patrol 5009 was able to boast of proven credentials from the outset. The vessel is based on the Damen Sea Axe FCS 5009 design. Developed in 2006, this vessel rapidly earned acclaim across several sectors. The FCS 5009 has seen action in markets as diverse as the offshore energy industries and yacht support. Whilst the Stan Patrol 5009 version differs significantly, it is based on technology that has been thoroughly tested.
Need for speed
As well as a High speed 7meter RHIB stored in the stern slipway, from which it can be safely launched and recovered in a matter of minutes, the 5009 offers the opportunity to feature two Damen Interceptors 1102, which are stored in davits on the aft deck. The interceptors are able to sail, safely, at speeds of over 55 knots. Refuelling and repair facilities for the RHIB and interceptors are fitted to the vessel to allow for round the clock operations.
It’s fair to say, the 5009 itself does not hang around. Her effectiveness depends on swift response and this vessel has definitely got it where it counts. The 5009 is designed to patrol at between 10-16 knots, with a range of 3,000 nautical miles. However, sometimes higher speeds are called for and, here, the vessel design invokes Damen’s spirit of flexibility.
Independent defence expert Sanjay Badri-Maharj has suggested that the success of Damen’s patrol portfolio in the Caribbean stems at least partially from its flexibility, pointing out that shipbuilders active in the region must “be willing to customise vessels to meet the specific requirements of customers.” And “… being designs that were easy to upgrade, the Spa 4207 and 5009 vessels were able to morph into much more capable vessels – as is the case of those in service with the Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force and the US Coast Guard.”
The speed range of the 5009 is indeed a superb example of this flexibility in action. The vessel can be configured with four MTU or Caterpillar engines to meet a whole range of needs. Five standard options are available, spanning everything from 22.5 knots up to 32 knots of top speed.
This versatility was appreciated by the Trinidad & Tobago Coast Guard when they placed a twelve vessel order with Damen – four SPa 5009 vessels, two Damen Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 5009 vessels and six Damen Interceptor DI 1102 Interceptors, for embarkation on board the 5009 vessels. The Coast Guard required an engine configuration in its SPa vessels that would enable them to operate at up to 28 knots – a speed the vessels can hold for over 1,000 nautical miles.
The same flexibility is applied when it comes to the weaponry installed on a 5009. The vessel design allows for the installation of anything from a 20mm up to a 40mm gun. Similarly, the four machine guns that can be outfitted to the 5009 can be either heavy or light. Accompanying these are 12.7mm side guns.
Beyond the call of duty
Of course, all of this sophisticated technology is only effective if those on board are able to fulfil their roles effectively. To that end, considerable attention has been paid to ensuring that the SPa 5009 is a comfortable vessel.
The Enlarged Ship Concept makes possible the location of the vessel’s wheelhouse one third from the stern – precisely where ship motions are at their lowest level, creating the best possible working environment. Flexible carpentry and floating floors take care of the noise levels whilst flex-mounted engines keep the vibrations to a minimum.
In such a manner, the SPa 5009 goes well beyond the call of duty.