US Marines start maintenance of open water safety craft

Marines from 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion conduct visit, board, search and seizure training alongside the USS San Antonio (LPD-17). Photo: US Navy

The U.S. Marine Corps is starting an overhaul of its open water safety craft (OWSC) this year under the Enterprise Life Cycle Maintenance Program.

This is the first round of major maintenance for the OWSC, which has been in service since 2006, and is used as an emergency vessel during waterborne training operations.

ELMP is essential for equipment like the OWSC and will help extend the service life of the vessel, said Darin Simmons, an assistant product manager for logistics in MCSC’s Infantry Weapons Systems.

There are only 28 safety boats in the Marine Corps inventory, and Marines do not have the resident expertise needed to conduct depot-level maintenance, he said.

The OWSC provides a safety platform to support small craft, dive and parachute training on or near water. The craft is a nontactical asset Marines use to transport casualties back to shore or to designated helicopter pads in case of a medical emergency in the water. It has communication and navigation systems to give its crew situational awareness, and the ability to respond to and aid disabled craft and personnel. After more than 10 years in operation, many of the vessels were in need of maintenance, and in some cases, a complete overhaul, Simmons said.

Marine Corps Systems Command works hand in hand with Marine Corps Logistics Command to conduct ELMP. MCSC personnel provide technical expertise and recommend which vessels should be repaired first, while LOGCOM provides the funding and works with the National Marine Center, or NMC, in St. Augustine, Florida, to complete the work.

A large part of ELMP is fixing things that are broken, such as the engine or power steering; however, there are many electronic items like the GPS and radars that require replacement. NMC takes care of those items as well.

With this first round of overhauls, Marines can expect a few changes to the OWSC. Enhanced power steering capability will make the boat easier to drive and reduce the load on the engine; and a replacement navigation system will use state-of-the-art touchscreen technology instead of buttons and knobs, Feeney said.

Prior to LOGCOM entering into a contract with NMC, MCSC funded a proof of concept to determine the cost and time it would take the organization to overhaul a single OWSC. MCSC sent the “worst case” boat to NMC to be refurbished, and it was completed within three months at a significant savings compared to the previous process of sending the boats to local marinas for repairs, Simmons said.

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