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Cutter boats crucial to rescues, navigation in debris-strewn waters


cutter boats

An over-the-horizon-IV cutter boat from Coast Guard Cutter Valiant transports people and their belongings from St. Thomas to the cutter during Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands Sept. 12, 2017. Valiant crewmembers transported more than 95 adults, children and pets that day. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

As Coast Guard cutters from multiple classes deployed in response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many carried new cutter boats that helped assess and rescue people in debris-strewn waters.

The Coast Guard is acquiring up to 101 over the horizon IV (OTH IV) cutter boats for use on its national security cutters (NSCs), fast response cutters (FRCs) and the older medium endurance cutters. Each NSC is also outfitted with a 35-foot long-range interceptor II (LRI II) boat.

Both boat types have proven instrumental in surveying conditions and performing rescues during hurricane response. The LRI II has a range of 240 miles, and OTH IV has a range of 200 miles. The LRI II features shock-mitigating seats for 15 passengers and crew; the OTH IV also features enhanced shock mitigation for crew protection during high-speed rough water transits and can carry more cargo than previous OTH models. Both boats have a maximum speed of about 40 knots and can be launched from astern, which can save time by allowing the cutter to deploy boats without changing course.

Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s long range interceptor II boat helped the cutter conduct a preliminary assessment of the entrance to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida, by surveying the port Sept. 12. The boat’s five-member crew traveled up the river, assessed the status of aids to navigation, surveyed the waterway for hazards and made contact with Coast Guard Station Mayport to provide a clear picture of the damage for Sector Jacksonville. After Hamilton transited to Key West, Florida, the boat continued assessing the water, examining overturned vessels to ensure no one was nearby and in distress.

The cutters also use their boats to bring people aboard the cutter for evacuation. For example, Coast Guard Cutter Valiant, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter, used its OTH IV to help evacuate more than 95 people and pets from St. Thomas as part of Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands Sept. 12.

For more information: Boat Acquisition Program page