Waterways Commerce Cutter
The Coast Guard’s current inland cutter fleet consists of nine classes and subclasses of cutters that support the service’s aids to navigation (ATON) mission in federal inland waterways. These ships play a vital role in directing the traffic of the nation’s marine transportation highways and support the U.S. economy by enabling the efficient flow of goods nationwide. The fleet is responsible for maintaining more than 28,200 marine ATONs throughout 12,000 miles of inland waterways, which move 630 million tons of cargo annually.
The inland cutters also feature some of the same capabilities as the Coast Guard’s oceangoing cutters, enabling them to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies such as environmental incidents and severe weather events.
The Marine Transportation System accounts for more than $4.6 trillion in U.S. economic activity, and 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. However, most of the inland cutters have been in operation for more than 55 years, and the Coast Guard is examining options to ensure continuity of its inland maritime mission capability and address obsolescence concerns.
The Coast Guard is analyzing the possibility of renewing and standardizing its inland ATON 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.
The program is currently documenting the operational concept and associated operational requirements. In February 2018, the Coast Guard released a request for information with inland maritime mission scenarios and other details to conduct market research and invite industry to comment on creative and affordable solutions.