2022 Ship of the Year: Fireboat 2

Florida fireboat watches over LNG operations

Canaveral Fire Rescue’s Fireboat 2 can speed up to 35 knots and blast 10,000 gallons of water per minute. Its electronics package is second to none, and its four waterjets can make the vessel dance.

Perhaps the most important feature, however, is a small monitor on the port shoulder. The remote-controlled system dispenses the chemical agent Purple-K to extinguish liquefied natural gas (LNG) fires.

“It may not look like much, but that is what this boat is all about,” said Mark Holley, a licensed 100-ton captain who leads marine operations for the Canaveral, Fla., response department.

Between emergencies, monitoring LNG bunkering operations within the port is Fireboat 2’s primary responsibility. Its crews stay nearby when a bunkering articulated tug-barge (ATB) loads fuel into a ship.

The ATB, operated by Q-LNG, is equipped with sophisticated firefighting equipment, including multiple Purple-K systems of its own. Q-LNG crews are trained and prepared to respond to emergencies. Fireboat 2 stands by to assist if needed. 

“They are the primary response,” Holley said. “But if they get in trouble, then we are already there.”

The Canaveral Port Authority purchased the vessel for nearly $4.6 million, a total offset by $2.5 million in state and federal grants. Metal Shark designed and built the 70-by-22.5-foot monohull in south Louisiana and delivered it in December 2020.

The 3,200-hp vessel is stationed on the port’s north side, across a turning basin from some of the world’s busiest cruise terminals. Each year, the port hosts nearly 5 million cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

Last summer, Carnival began operating the 1,130-foot Mardi Gras, the first cruise ship in the United States powered by LNG. Disney’s Wish, slated to begin cruising next summer from Port Canaveral, also will run on cleaner-burning LNG. More LNG-fueled cruise ships are expected in the future.

Commercial ships can bunker LNG safely offshore or take fuel dockside from trucks. The cruise ships, meanwhile, load from the water in the confines of the port with people on board. Fireboat 2 adds another layer of safety and protection.

“With Port Canaveral’s significant growth in the past few years and (the) arrival of the first LNG-powered cruise ship to home-port in North America, we made the proactive move to upgrade our firefighting and emergency response resources,” Capt. John Murray, port CEO, said in a prepared statement. “This fireboat will greatly enhance the core capabilities of our first responders to ensure the safety and security of our port.”

In addition to the cruise traffic, Port Canaveral has multiple commercial terminals handling dry cargo, petroleum products and shipping containers. Roughly 6 million tons of cargo move through the facility each year. SpaceX and Blue Origin the space travel firms led by billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, respectively also have a large presence within the port.

Metal Shark designed and built Fireboat 2 using the company’s proven 70 Defiant platform. The monohull was made from 5/16-inch-thick aluminum alloy plating. It has a deep-V hull form with an 18.5-degree deadrise designed for speed, maneuverability and stability, according to Metal Shark.

“The 70 Defiant is the result of the latest thinking in fireboat design and will provide a significant capability boost for Canaveral Fire,” Dean Jones, Metal Shark’s vice president of sales for law enforcement, fire rescue and specialty markets, said in a prepared statement.

“From the selection and integration of firefighting systems to the layout of the vessel’s fire control center, operator input was vital and significantly influenced the vessel’s configuration,” he continued. “Heavy emphasis was placed on accessibility and overall ease of use, and the result is a purpose-built firefighting machine with next-level capabilities and a crew-friendly layout that firefighters will love.”

Fireboat 2 has a split-level interior accessible from the aft deck, with additional doors on the port and starboard sides. The aft entrance leads to a galley space with a 7-foot bench for patient transfers. Stairs lead up to the wheelhouse or down to an accommodations space with full head and beds for two people.

The engine compartment is accessible from hatches on the aft deck or through a doorway in the accommodations space. The propulsion package consists of four 800-hp MAN engines each paired with HamiltonJet waterjets through ZF reduction gears. Twin Kohler generators provide electrical power. Fireboat 2’s top speed is 35 knots, although its most economical cruise speed is closer to 22 knots.

In firefighting mode, the inboard main engines disengage from the waterjets while the outer units provide propulsion and maneuverability. The inboard engines drive Darley fire pumps through a power takeoff.

Although the fire pumps are rated for 3,000 gpm, each can flow up to 5,000 gpm “when they are really screaming,” Holley said. The pumps can direct water to five monitors, or any of the four 5-inch Storz hose connections that can supply shoreside firefighting units.

Fireboat 2 carries up to 500 gallons of firefighting foam that can be delivered by any of the five monitors. Two aft-mounted Elkhart Brass Copperhead monitors can each blast 1,250 gpm, while the two forward-mounted Elkhart Scorpion units can each dispense 2,500 gpm. The Elkhart Magnum unit on the roof can direct water up to 500 feet.

“The one on the roof, that is the big boy,” Holley said. “It can do 5,000 gallons a minute by itself.”

Like the water monitors, the Burner monitor that dispenses Purple-K is remotely controlled from the wheelhouse. Depending on the wind, the monitor can fire the dry chemical up to 80 feet, allowing the fireboat to respond effectively while keeping a safe distance.

Purple-K, or PKP, is made primarily from potassium bicarbonate. It smothers LNG fires by inhibiting the chemical chain reaction that feeds the blaze.

Fireboat 2 typically operates with a four-person crew composed of an incident commander overseeing the response, an operator who drives the vessel, a firefighter who handles communications, and a firefighter controlling the pumps and monitors.

The wheelhouse has a chevron-shaped dash that places the operator front and center, while Metal Shark’s “pillarless glass” windows reduce blind spots. The firefighting station is to port, while the comms station is to starboard. An incident command post is aft of the main console.

The touch-screen Raymarine multifunction display occupies a prominent place on the dash next to digital gauges for the MAN engines. Three Axiom Pro displays — two 19-inch units and one 24-inch unit — can show radar, electronic charts, AIS and sonar, depending on the operator’s needs. A roof-mounted FLIR thermal imaging camera has a dedicated display for search and rescue efforts, and a separate FLIR camera monitors the engine room.

The operator can steer via a traditional wheel while underway at speed, or use advanced HamiltonJet controls for close-quarters maneuvering. The HamiltonJet AVX feature lets the operator steer the boat with one hand, using a hand-held control that looks and feels like a computer mouse.

Fireboat 2 also has a HamiltonJet JETanchor system that can hold position or allow the vessel to rotate using a virtual anchor.

“This boat is so intuitive,” Holley said. “It is very simple to drive if you have previous jet-drive experience.”

The wheelhouse has a positive pressure system that protects the crew from exposure to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) threats. Two air-conditioning units keep the wheelhouse and accommodations space cool in the Florida heat.

As of mid-September, Fireboat 2 had overseen seven LNG bunkering operations within the port, all of which proceeded flawlessly. Beyond those efforts, Canaveral Fire Rescue crew have focused on acclimating to the vessel and its capabilities.

“We are constantly training on it,” Holley said. “It is a very technically advanced boat, so it is a handful for everybody to get to know.”

But he is pleased with the finished product, which greatly improves the department’s ability to respond within the port.

“The overall fit and design of the vessel, with all of the technology — it all just works together,” Holley said.

Categories: American Ship Review, Fire Boat