San Francisco’s New Fireboat is Like No Other

By Joseph Keefe

San Francisco’s Jensen-designed super pumping fireboat is like none that came before her. As a result, the City by the Bay is prepared like never before, for its next crisis. 

Christened on October 17, appropriately enough on the anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the city of San Francisco’s first new fireboat in almost 60 years is an especially unique boat, designed and built for a specific purpose. When the infamous quake burst the domestic water lines beneath San Francisco, it left local firefighters scrambling for a water source from which they could fight the fires that ensued. Today, Fireboat 3 – named locally by a young grade school student as the St. Francis – will now be there to ensure that the city’s Auxiliary Water System (AWS) has the water needed to protect citizens and property. The AWS consists of five large salt-water inlet manifolds along the waterfront.
Vigor built the boat in Seattle, Washington, having laid the keel in November of 2014. At the same time, the unique vessel, designed by Seattle-based Jensen Maritime Consultants, also exemplifies the evolution and growth of the naval architecture and marine engineering firm since it was acquired by Crowley Maritime in 2008. The reasons why are plain enough to see.
Uniquely Different
Fireboat 3, designed from the keel up by Crowley’s Jensen Maritime, is, like many other fireboats today, a multi-missioned hull. Unlike every other fireboat on the planet, this one was specifically designed to do at least one thing very well: pump water, lots of it and to shore connections in times of great emergency. Jensen’s Johan Sperling vice president of Crowley’s marine solutions group and closely involved with the Jensen design team from start to finish, told Marine News in November, “Contrary to most other vessels, less attention was spent on hull form to allow the boat to fly at high speeds, like other fireboats. In other places, speed is one of the things that they care about. In this case they were most concerned with being able to hook it up to pump to a fire main on shore. During the last earthquake in San Francisco, it became apparent that any firefighting capability would need to come from the water.” Because of that, says Sperling, the vessel is less of a fast attack platform and more of a parking space in the water.
Notably, the boat is designed for providing continuous pumping onshore for 72 hours through discharge manifolds where hoses from fire engines could be hooked up. In extreme emergencies, the new fireboat can pump for up to two weeks. 
Nevertheless, the boat is also equipped and fitted for the traditional roles of search and rescue, accident response on the water and providing EMT-type service, where and when necessary. That comes with a myriad of high-tech bells and whistles. The NFPA Type II Fireboat will operate in San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Ocean within five miles of shore. Designed primarily for Pumping, Firefighting, Rescue, EMS and Patrol, the vessel will also have CBRNE detection capabilities. The vessel is designed in accordance with ABS rules, but will not be classed.
The vessel’s formidable pumping capacity – 18,000 gallons per minute (gpm) at 150 PSI and 6,000 gpm at 300 PSI – isn’t the only unique aspect of the nation’s newest fireboat. That’s because the propulsion system is so fitted to run off the front end of the engine and the pump is run off the back (where propulsion normally runs). “The operators are much more concerned with getting (more) maximum power and pumping capability out the water, explained Sperling, adding, “There are other boats with more pumping capabilities, but for the mission profile, this is right where it needs to be. Pumping isn’t an auxiliary function of this vessel.” 
With three Cummins Tier III engines, the vessel can be tied up and used purely as a pumping station, with each producing 6,000 GPM pumping capacity. Power is transmitted to the pumps via three Logan LC318 SAE #0 air actuated clutches and Elbe cardan shafts with a Centa Centaflex-R flywheel mounted torsional coupling. In normal operation, says Sperling, “Obviously, two of those engines are also propulsion engines, so if one of the propulsion engines failed then you would still have the ability to maintain station. And, you’ve got a bow thruster power, taken from one of the two smaller auxiliary engines, which also power the hotel load and lights. We can actually move at 8 KT, using water as a propulsion method.”
The Jensen Way: Experience Counts
On any workboat, a vessel’s layout, its systems and seakeeping ability are all critical to the vessel’s operational success. In the case of this fireboat, there were many challenges, not the least of which included a tight budget for a municipality who was funding the vessel largely on the back of grant money. Because of that, the vessel was also smaller than it might otherwise have been. “When you consider how much equipment was packed into this hull – more than you might otherwise think is humanly possible – you can see that the shipyard and Jensen did a good job making it all work together, said Sperling. “Beyond this, San Francisco’s other fireboats have been in service for 50 years – so we had to use materials that were going to last. This boat will likely be in service long after a commercial hull might be changed out. This effort included stainless steel, fiberglas, special coatings; all with the long term viability of the vessel in mind.”
That type of effort and result took experience, both from design shop and from the deep knowledge that rests in Crowley’s operational team. The knowledge sharing between Jensen and Crowley team members, says Sperling, “has been very powerful. Because we have operators on staff, mariners and maritime graduates, unlike some other naval architects, we have a very diverse team. Just by osmosis, get some that experience and imbed that into our designs. Beyond this, Crowley has a lot of boats. We have many tugboats with firefighting capability. So, there are a lot of things we’ve learned from the operators; what works and what does not work.”
For some operators, their comments and input don’t necessarily make it to the naval architect. Sperling insists that, at Crowley, that doesn’t happen. “Our team really benefits from getting direct feedback from the operator. We sit in the same office as the harbor tug staff and they’re not shy about telling us about something, if and when it doesn’t work. And, that helps us get better in replying to and catering to third parties, as well.”
According to Sperling, in the first few years of the Crowley/Jensen relationship, Cowley operations personnel simply flooded Jensen with comments, but now, we’re getting much better at managing and taking advantage of that internal skill set. And, he admits, “To me as a naval architect, there are certain times when something looks perfectly correct on paper from a naval architecture, USCG and/or class standpoint, but in actual practice on board, it might not work. So, here, we take everything in, extract the best and get the right designs and quality. And, we’re getting better at it.”
CAD/CAM, the 3D Approach 
In today’s naval architect shop, 3D programs have come into play, something that make everything fit better into the hull. This isn’t unique to Jensen by any means, says Sperling, adding quickly “But in this case you can now actually walk the customer through the 3D design, through the rooms and up and down the stairs, show them everything you are planning before sending the drawings to the cut shop. For this fireboat, we modeled everything. Both the owner and the shipyard managed to walk through the design and look for issues and that gives us the opportunity to move one thing from here to there. So, the technology has helped a lot and we have tried to maximize the use of technology to eliminate the need to change things later in the building process.” The modeling scheme also helped to fit all that equipment onto a workboat platform with limited extra room for it.
The 3D modeling approach was especially important, especially since some of the trickiest work involved the unconventional installation of the Cummins QSK19 propulsion engines. Similar to the retrofitting of a ballast water treatment system on existing hulls, every inch of space was important and had to be planned meticulously. Using advanced technology, Jensen provided computational fluid dynamics that allowed the customer to receive highly optimized drawings for all aspects of the vessel.
Evolving to Produce Unique Solutions
As Jensen became part of Crowley’s marine solutions group, the move was intended to enhance the overall company’s menu of engineering services and capabilities. Evolving from a small firm that handled mainly fishing boats in 1979, then to tugs, ferries and high speed vessels, and finally to a business that drives innovation in public safety, transportation engineering and other sectors, Jensen has over time grown from 21 to 85 employees today with additional offices in Jacksonville, Houston and New Orleans.
Leveraging those resources and the collective expertise represented by one of the nation’s largest and most diverse operators of marine vessels, Jensen today performs larger and more complex projects with outcomes that benefit a wide range of customers. Today, the San Francisco Fire Department’s response capabilities are markedly better because of it.

Builder: Vigor
LOA: 88’
Breadth: 25’
Depth: 14’-4”
Draft: 9’
Construction: Steel
Crew: 3 + 4 Firefighters
Speed: 11.5 knots
Propulsion: 2x Cummins QSK19-M
HP:2 x 750 bhp (559 kW) 1,800rpm
Fire Engine: 1 x Cummins QSK19-M
Fire Pumps: 3 x CounterFire ESF
Fuel: 10,900gal @ 95%
Lubes: 175 gal @ 95%
Fresh water: 250 gal @ 100%
Fire foam: 1,000 gal @ 95%
(As published in the December 2016 edition of Marine News)
Marine News Magazine, page 34,  Dec 2016

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