The U.S. Coast Guard's first National Security Cutter, Bertholf, completed five days of acceptance trials in Pascagoula, Miss., April 11, 2008. Acceptance trials culminate many months of preliminary tests and evaluations before a new ship can be delivered to the government by its contractors. The U.S. Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) said, "(Bertholf) was found to be a unique and very capable platform with great potential for future service...Board recommends the USCG Commandant authorize acceptance, provided all (8) starred deficiencies are corrected or waived..." More than 80 representatives of INSURV tested shipboard equipment, assessed the quality of Bertholf's construction, and evaluated the cutter's compliance with contractual specifications and requirements established by the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard selected INSURV to conduct acceptance trials of the NSC based on its 125 years of naval engineering experience and technical expertise. During the course of the acceptance process, INSURV conducts inspections and surveys of the ship and systems to determine whether they are ready for delivery. In addition, they observe and determine if the contractor's equipment is operating satisfactorily in accordance with the contract requirements. INSURV records discrepancies using trial cards.
Trial cards document individual discrepancies or deficiencies that require corrective action. The Coast Guard has used this same trial card system during all previous trials to communicate discrepancies to the contractor.
For a first-in-class ship design, the U. S. Navy has traditionally seen between 6,000 and 16,000 trial cards written during sea trials. The National Security Cutter has generated approximately 2,800 trial cards. INSURV recognized that, of the total trial card amount, 1,360 were roll-over cards from previous trial events. Noting that fact in its message, the Board said it was a "testament to the superb quality assurance oversight provided during ship construction and testing by the USCG Project Manager's Representative Office (PMRO) and the Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding (SOS) Gulf Coast." Over the next several weeks, government representatives will work with industry to correct discrepancies and develop plans for resolving outstanding issues.
Throughout April, trial cards will be resolved as quickly as possible. On April 14, instrumented TEMPEST testing began. The next major step in Bertholf's transition to operational status is formal acceptance of the cutter as documented in the Material Inspection and Receiving Report, or DD250. The DD250 formally documents inspection, delivery by the contractor, and receipt by the government. Any outstanding discrepancies or work items requiring resolution will be annotated on the form. The signed DD250 represents conditional acceptance of the cutter by the Coast Guard from the contractor.
Before conditionally accepting Bertholf, the Coast Guard's agency acquisition executive, Vice Adm. Vivien Crea, will consider the recommendations of INSURV, Bertholf prospective Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Stadt, and a Coast Guard executive board consisting of senior members representing the Coast Guard's acquisition directorate, operations directorate (program sponsor), and independent technical authorities, including the chief engineer and chief information officer. Conditional acceptance could occur as early as April 30, upon approval of the agency acquisition executive.
Once accepted, the cutter will be turned over to the Coast Guard permanent crew and enter "In Commission, Special" status prior to formal commissioning into service scheduled for August. "In Commission Special" status indicates that the cutter is not doing regular patrols but is instead training the crew and testing equipment prior to beginning normal operations. Formal acceptance of Bertholf will be a major milestone in a lengthy testing and evaluation period that will follow delivery over the next 22-24 months to ensure the ship meets all technical requirements and the crew is fully trained and certified before it becomes an operational cutter within the Coast Guard's fleet.
The 418-foot Bertholf is the lead ship in the new Legend-class of cutters designed to be the flagship of the U.S. Coast Guard's more modern fleet. Capable of executing the most challenging maritime safety and security missions around the globe, Bertholf is the first of eight national security cutters planned to be built under the Coast Guard's Deepwater modernization program.
Bertholf was christened on Veteran's Day in 2006 and is named after Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf, the first commandant of the modern-day Coast Guard.