Written by Lt. Kevin Robinson
The Coast Guard has the statutory responsibility for establishing, operating and maintaining the aids to navigation, which supports 2.3 billion tons of waterborne commerce along the U.S. Marine Transportation System.
To accomplish this, the Coast Guard relies upon a fleet of 31 inland river buoy tenders averaging 52 years old, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and sustain operations along this vital economic highway.
Senior Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering cadets from the Coast Guard Academy are working in partnership with the Coast Guard Office of Ship Design to design a replacement Waterways Commerce Cutter to ensure these vital trade routes can be cost effectively maintained through future generations.
Leveraging new and innovative technologies the cadets are working to produce platform concepts that reduce operational costs, increase mission efficiency, enhance crew habitability and align with the latest emission and environmental standards. The NA&ME capstone project is the culmination of four years of study where cadets learn the fundamentals of naval architecture, applied marine engineering, ship structures and ship design.
Each year, the NA&ME cadets leverage their previous Coast Guard Academy courses to develop a platform to address current service concerns and/or commercial shipping interests.
In the fall semester, the cadets balance established mission need, conduct a market analysis, develop hull geometry, estimate weight and conduct a stability analysis as they drive towards a final design based upon their design philosophy and top level requirements of the platform.
In the spring semester the design teams evaluate the effectiveness of their designs through model testing in the Academy’s towing tank, ensure proper stability is maintained through damaged scenarios and establish seakeeping and operability estimates to define how the vessel will respond in various sea conditions.
Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadets Hannah Waddell, Garrett Magill, Micah Larson, and Robert ‘Trip’ Jackson have been working on their capstone ship design project for months. Their ship design is named the Goldstar Member.
“This project was chosen because the inland river towboat fleet is aging,” said Waddell. “There are new emission requirements and stability requirements that many of the ships are struggling to meet. This design offers an alternative solution that will provide a new boat that meets or exceeds these new regulations.”
Completing the capstone project is the final hurdle the NA&ME cadets face before graduating and becoming the Coast Guard’s newest ensigns. They take with them the skills required to excel today and to lead the service through future challenges.
“This project has helped us knit together everything we have learned over the last four years,” said Waddell. “All of the small details that go into ship design really become evident and you gain a better appreciation and understanding for professional naval architects and the products you see every day. Knowing why everything is designed the way it is will be important in the coming year when we start our career in a service focused around the operation of ships.”
While the projects are academic in nature, the cadets’ fresh ideas and innovative spirit have already spurred insight for the Coast Guard’s Ship Design and Acquisition community. During a mid-design brief, cadets proposed an integrated hydraulic propulsion plant concept that would allow increased operational flexibility of these vessels. One senior officer is suggesting that this idea be considered in future design iterations of these vessels.
“I would love to see it become a reality someday,” said Waddell. “There is still a lot of work that would need to be completed before that would be a possibility but it would be great to see something we have put so much work into actually operating.”