Yacht Maker Tests Homeland Security Waters

By Eric Beidel
Westport Shipyard Inc. has built its reputation on composite yachts, so when the U.S. Coast Guard was looking to use alternative materials for its fast response cutter, the company turned its attention to the security and defense markets.

Westport spent years and millions of its own dollars designing a state-of-the-art patrol boat out of the same kinds of materials used in PVC pipes. The company built a prototype to specifications written by the Coast Guard. But then the service decided it didn’t want composite materials.

That left the Washington state company without a ready-made customer for its 143-foot boat. Westport recently unveiled a prototype of its global response cutter and sailed from Washington state to the nation’s capital seeking buyers for the concept.

During a recent demonstration on the Potomac River, a crew cranked the engines to show off the cutter’s 34-knot speed. Westport also launched and recovered a rigid-hulled inflatable boat from the rear of the cutter. The boat also can be outfitted with a Boeing Scan Eagle unmanned aircraft. Representatives from the U.S. Navy were among those aboard for the demo.

The hull consists of a number of composite materials including Kevlar and carbon fiber, eliminating problems with rust and corrosion, said Troy Treaccar, manager of Westport’s commercial division. “This boat can serve for well over 30 years,” he said.

Composite materials also result in less noise and greater fuel efficiency, as well as reduce heat, radar, acoustic and magnetic signatures, he noted.

The cutter is geared toward agencies with specific missions, such as fishery protection and tracking down pirates and drug runners, Treaccar said. “You don’t need a 90-meter [295 feet] boat or warship to do these things,” he said.

Westport is ready to deliver boats now, Treaccar said. The company can build about six of the composite cutters in a year, he said.

Topics: Homeland Security, MaritimePort Security, Science and Engineering Technology

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