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Coast Guard examines options for inland aids to navigation capability replacement


Coast Guard Cutter Gasconade – shown here in 1978 near its homeport of Omaha, Nebraska – is a 75-foot inland river buoy tender that was commissioned in 1964. Most current inland cutters have been in operation for more than 50 years. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard has begun to examine options for replacing the capability provided by its inland cutter fleet, which supports the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation (ATON) mission in federal inland waterways.

The Marine Transportation System accounts for more than $4.6 trillion in U.S. economic activity; inland ports and waterways are critical to the success of the overall system. The inland cutter fleet possesses the unique capability to establish, maintain and operate inland ATON to support the safe and efficient flow of this activity along U.S. rivers, lakes, intracoastal waterways, and harbors. The inland cutters also feature some of the same capabilities as the Coast Guard’s oceangoing cutter fleet, enabling them to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies such as environmental incidents and severe weather events.

The current inland cutter fleet consists of nine classes and subclasses of cutters. Most of these cutters have been in operation for over 50 years. The Coast Guard will analyze the possibility of renewing and standardizing its inland maritime mission capability with modern, state-of-the-market cutters specially equipped to conduct missions in the Western Rivers, Intracoastal Waterway and inland and coastal waters of the United States as well as along the U.S.-Canadian border.

Funding for this program was requested in fiscal year 2018; however, formal acquisition planning efforts will not begin until authorized by Congress via a Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The program is currently documenting the operational concept and associated operational requirements. A request for information with inland maritime mission scenarios and other details is planned for release next year to conduct market research and invite industry to comment on creative and affordable solutions.