Boat Forces Tour – National Marine Center

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Decommisoned Coast Guard boats are refitted at the National Marine Center and are put into service for Customs and Border Protection.  Photo by PA2 Dan Bender
Decommisoned Coast Guard boats are refitted at the National Marine Center and are put into service for Customs and Border Protection. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

For this week’s Boat Forces Tour we’re visiting the National Marine Center in St. Augustine, Fla.  The center is run by our sister service, Customs and Border Protection, but it also supports quite a few Coast Guard small boat assets.

Forward-looking infrared radar units, which allows Coast Guard and CBP crews to see in the dark, are also serviced at NMC. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender
Forward-looking infrared radar units, which allows Coast Guard and CBP crews to see in the dark, are also serviced at NMC. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

“We are essentially the depot-level repair facility for all CBP vessels,” said Kent Clarke, deputy director of NMC, “we also have an agreement to repair the Coast Guard’s fleet of SPC-LEs and all of the RB-S outboard engines.”

The scope of their work is really quite remarkable.

“We’re actually the largest dealer in the U.S. for [150-h.p.] and [225-h.p.] Honda engines,” said Clarke whose facility maintains 280 CBP vessels, 46 Coast Guard SPC-LEs, as well as the engines of 457 RB-Ss in service.

There are many advantages to working with CBP.

Hundreds of outboard engines are serviced here each year. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender
Hundreds of outboard engines are serviced here each year. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

“It would cost the Coast Guard a great deal of money to set up its own contract…and a lot of training for maintenance ,” said Chief Warrant Officer Curtis Fuller, the SPC-LE program manager who works alongside the CBP here in St. Augustine. “If the Coast Guard tried to perform all of the roles in house it would take an extremely large amount of certifications for the warranty repairs and downtime for the boats would increase.”

The partnership also benefits CBP who have also saved a lot of budget dollars by acquiring 96 decommissioned Coast Guard boats, refitting them at NMC and putting them back into service.

“The total cost-avoidance is over 13 million dollars,” said Clarke.  “We basically get a new boat for a minimal amount of money—about 40,000 dollars on average.”

It’s a great partnership for both services as well as the taxpayer.

A 225-horsepower outboard is tested on a dynamometer.  Photo by PA2 Dan Bender
A 225-horsepower outboard is tested on a dynamometer. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

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