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In the News – April 2007

Deepwater not in deep water

Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen defended the agency’s troubled Deepwater fleet modernization program before a Jan. 30 congressional subcommittee hearing. “We have experienced some failures in the Deepwater Program,” Allen told lawmakers. But he stressed that the situation isn’t as dire as has been portrayed in media reports.

News reports in the New York Times and Washington Post note cost overruns, delays in bringing new cutters on line, and design flaws resulting in cracked and buckled hulls, chronic shaft-alignment problems and other issues. The design issues forced the agency to take eight 123-foot cutters off the water and delay production of its 147-foot fast response cutter, or FRC, the workhorse of its 21st-century fleet.

Allen says cost overruns to the 25-year program, which has grown from $17 billion to $25 billion, were caused mainly by the “complete revision of the original plan to meet post-9/11 mission requirements” and the devastation hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted on the GulfCoast shipyard industry.

There also have been allegations that the Coast Guard failed to adequately oversee contractor Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. “That is not true,” Allen said. “We’ve redefined our award term and award fee criteria, making them more objective in order to improve contractor performance.”

In total the program is supposed to replace or modernize 90 ships and 200 aircraft. The Deepwater troubles occurred before Allen became commandant.

Yacht transport firm expands destinations

Dockwise Yacht Transport, the float-on/float-off yacht transport service, has added two new ports of call: Stockholm, Sweden, and Freeport, Bahamas. “Freeport supplements our Caribbean routes for boating enthusiasts who go south for the winter,” says Dockwise president Clemens van der Werf. “It will be a direct DYT destination from Newport, R.I., at the end of October.”

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Dockwise operates a fleet of four dedicated semisubmersible yacht carriers originally designed for shipping heavy structures for the oil and gas industry. Modified to transport yachts, the vessels become “floating marinas” when they submerge to load their cargo. The yachts float onto the ship, then customized supports are placed under them. When the ship rises, all the yachts are individually secured for transport.

This year Dockwise will begin operating the world’s first purpose-built semisubmersible yacht carrier. The new 685-foot vessel, Yacht Express, is scheduled for delivery in May in Yantai, China. Since 1987, DYT has transported more than 8,000 motor and sailing yachts. www.yacht-trans