Sunday, 16 October 2011

Coast Guard: Stan Patrol 4207 vs Combat Boat 90

The Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard acquired 3 Damen Stan Patrol 4207 offshore patrol vessels in 2005 and 2006. These 3 ships were commissioned HMJS Cornwall, HMJS Middlesex, and HMJS Surrey. HMJS means Her Majesty's Jamaica Ship. These ships were acquired to boost Jamaica's maritime patrol capability, but one has to wonder why this platform was chosen when at least one better option was available for the myriad of missions the Coast Guard is mandated to accomplish, and to do so, on a tight budget. From the Coast Guard's web page:
The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard is the naval arm of the Force. The JDF Coast Guard is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in Jamaica’s maritime domain. This domain is approximately 240,000sq km or approximately twenty five times the size of the mainland. Two of the missions executed by the Coast Guard are maritime safety and maritime law enforcement. Maritime safety involves search and rescue, pleasure craft inspections, response to oil spills and other hazardous substances. Maritime law missions include fisheries protection, drug interdiction, and customs and immigration.
With budget allocation for the JDF being at 0.6 percent of GDP (2007), the Coast Guard does not have the luxury of assorted inshore and offshore patrol vessels at its disposal, that can accomplish all its missions. Therefore, in my opinion, they need to make do with a single type of vessel that's versatile enough to do both inshore and offshore patrol, search and rescue, and drug interdiction etc. And to accomplish all of that, it is essential that the chosen boat has amphibious landing capability. I don't know what capabilities the JDF was looking for in a mission critical platform, but the Combat Boat 90 (CB90) should have been the preferred choice. Let's compare the capabilities:

JDF Coast Guard (Stan Patrol 4207) County class offshore patrol vessels.

The number 1 challenge to the JDF Coast Guard is to interdict suspected Go-fast drug boats speeding away on the high seas. Can the Stan Patrol 4207 which travels at up to 30 knots, chase down, out-maneuver and stop a Go-fast boat that travels at up to 80 knots and beyond? Would the CB90, at speeds of up to 45 knots, and superior maneuvering capability, not provide a better challenge in this cat-and-mouse game of high-speed chase? If the bandits cannot out-maneuver a fast attack CB90 supported by a JDF Air Wing helicopter and decided to crash on the beach to try to escape on foot, the CB90 could also land on the beach to deploy Coast Guard commandos to give chase, and that would be a dead-end for the bandits. But currently with the Stan Patrol 4207s and other inshore patrol boats in the Coast Guard's inventory, this amphibious landing capability is missing and leaves a major gap in their maritime law enforcement capability. The drug-runners on the high seas know they have the upper hand and it's open season. That's the long and short of it. Now, let's look at a search and rescue scenario:

Combat Boat 90 configured as a fast attack vessel and as a sea ambulance (inset).

American Airlines flight 331 crashed and broke in three, after landing at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, on Tuesday, December 22, 2009. The plane on landing, failed to stop and overshot the runway, crashed through a perimeter fence, went across the Norman Manley highway, and then halted a few meters from the Kingston Harbour (shown in the picture below). Now, can you imagine a worse case scenario with the plane crashing into the water and partially submerging before the passengers could escape? What search and rescue effort could the Coast Guard have mounted with the Stan Patrol 4207 and a handful of other inshore vessels? They would have needed sea ambulances at the ready to provide life-support for the unconscious, and a means to quickly transfer the victims to ambulances arriving on the beach. Would the CB90 configured as an ambulance (shown in the inset picture above) not have provided a better platform for this critical mission, in both deep and shallow waters, than the Stan Patrol 4207? Yes, it would. Coast Guard divers with CB90 sea ambulances at the scene would've been the greatest hope for the passengers and crew. Otherwise, all would have perished. And, it is important to note, that no seaborne emergency crew arrived at the crash scene of flight 331. Neither Coast Guard nor Marine Police appeared along the coastline to offer assistance and secure the area. If I am wrong, I stand to be corrected, but you'd be hard pressed to find a photo showing a JDF Coast Guard or a Marine Police vessel within close proximity of that crash.

American Airlines flight 331 overshoots runway at Norman Manley Intl Airport, Kingston.

Middle Cay at Pedro Bank. Located about 80 km south and southwest of Jamaica.

One more thing. Shown in the last photo above is one of the four cays that make up the Pedro Cays, in the Pedro Bank area that is very important to the Jamaican fishing industry. It is inhabited by a fishing village and a Coast Guard Station, that has no pier to accommodate a Stan Patrol 4207. For policing the area and providing general assistance to the fisher folks, the CB90 is once again more suitable for those shallow waters. No need for sailors to disembark from a HMJS Middlesex unto a smaller boat, and then jump off into the water to come ashore. JDF, do the right thing.

When next you go shopping for a Coast Guard vessel, choose a versatile platform with (1) amphibious landing capability that can accomplish rapid insertion of security agents anywhere along the Jamaican coastline; (2) speed that can match the Go-fast drug boats in a high-speed chase; (3) can be reconfigured as an ambulance for search and rescue and the rapid transfer of badly injured victims to ambulances on the beach; and (4) patrol our river ways such as the Black River and others, if needs be. No Jamaican territory should be inaccessible to our security agents and search and rescue teams, because they lack the right equipment.


  1. CB90s can not operate in open sea or open ocean conditions. The 4207s are a well respected design, selected by Denmark, Austrailia, and most recently the US Coast Guard. Jamaica was ahead of the curve of even the US.

  2. Well, in my opinion, the main mission of the JDF Coast Guard in patrolling Jamaica's territorial waters is to prevent traffickers in their go-fast boats from reaching our shores and then making a getaway. So effectively it would be a race between the good guys and the bad. The 4207s cannot out-maneuver and out-run the go-fast boats, and neither can they land troops on the beach to engage in a manhunt. The CB90 with its amphibious-landing capability makes it a better pick for such a mission. The Mexican Navy has CB90s fighting the drug war.

  3. I'm not saying that the CR90s don't have a role, but that their role is an inshore patrol role. Ofteh times, drug runners are detected further out to sea, which is where you want them, out of sight of land. Mexico also has long range patrol vessels, which you didn't mention, as well as helicopter capable vessels,which is the next step.

    To keep 1 vessel on constant patrol, the rule of thumb is to have 3 of those vessels. That way 1 can be in workup/training, with the third in refit or repair. Of course, you and alter the plan to 2 on patrol, but shorter patrols, with less wear and tear, with the third vessel in refit.

    What Jamaica really needs for their Coast Guard in my opinion is the following:
    3 Offshore Patrol Vessels with helicopter landing capability
    6 StanPat 4207s
    9 CR90s
    1 Dedicated Sail Training Vessel
    2 Fast Catamaran Vessels for Disaster Relief/Transport Operations

    But that's just my opinion. And I'll leave my name this time.

    1. I agree with you 100%

  4. I think you mean CB90, not CR90.. It would be great to have all that equipment you listed, but the reality is that the JDF operates on a very thin budget, so it's a situation of picking one or the other. The Stan 4207 might be able to spot intruders from way out, but can they intercept them? They cannot outrun the go-fast boats and have no missiles or torpedoes to threaten them to stop. At least the CB90 can chase these boats close to the shoreline and land commandos on the beach if necessary. The 4207 in my view is nothing but a 'white elephant' that serves no real purpose but to make the coast guard look good. Those boats can only interdict slow-moving fishing and pleasure boats but when it's time for a hot pursuit they don't worth a dime.

  5. Lesson: Most naval patrol, whether open ocean or offshore patrol, takes place between 15 and 22 knots. You can NOT operate an effective Coast Guard other than for the smallest of islands, on 1 class of inshore boat. There is a reason that the USCG, Mexico, The Dominican Republic, Barbados, T&T, etc., have inshore and offshore patrol vessels. They can not do the same things, and don't need to.

    Its the same with the JDF. Do you want them to just have 2" (51mm) mortars because they are lighter, though short range, or should they also have 81mm mortars, which are heavier, but have a longer reach?

    Do you want soldiers to just have pistols, which are effective at short range, or rifles and semi-automatic weapons for longer range fire, though they are heavier?

    You need both. I've long been a fan of the CB90's, but not at the expense of more capable vessels for a longer-range mission. You need both.

  6. Jamaica also needs a sail training vessel for initial navigation training. Could share costs with other countries, such as Barbados and Trinidad.

  7. The JDF will first need to have their own coast guard academy. But of course, such things shall be on the back burner because of the country's current debt crisis. In the meantime they'll just have to work with the Caribbean Maritime Institute and the coast guard academies of partner states.

  8. Let's work to get their officers into the US Coast Guard academy. Consider it 'Government to Government Assistance or Foreign Aid'.

  9. Caribbean Maritime Institute is a good place to start.

  10. CB90 may be in JDF Coast Guard's future after all. Stay tuned.

    1. Where did you get that info? That would be the best thing since slice bread.