Liquid erupted out of each of the fireboat Vigilance’s water cannons on Monday, Nov. 13, as it rotated smoothly in the ocean in display of its power and flexibility during the vessel’s official dedication event at the Port of Long Beach’s joint command and control center.
Fireboat 15 Vigilance now joins its counterpart and twin Fireboat 20 Protector, introduced last year, as a component of the Long Beach Fire Department’s (LBFD) security at the port.
Vigilance and Protector are designed for emergency response and firefighting to safeguard the port for the Big Ship Era, a term coined in response to the growing volume of cargo and size of vessels in the modern day.
“The Vigilance is an amazing addition to the port fleet, joining Protector to enable fire and security teams to provide the very best protective services for our customers and our community,” said Lou Anne Bynum, harbor commission president for the port, adding that, prior to the Protector, a new fireboat hadn’t been introduced since 1988. “In the years since, our trade volume has increased from 1.5 million TEU [twenty-foot equivalent unit] containers to today’s 7 million-plus containers. The size of vessels has grown from 4,500 TEUs to today’s mega ships of 18,000. To maintain our competitiveness, we are upgrading infrastructure and equipment to serve these giant ships.”
David Meistrell, LBFD paramedic onboard the Vigilance, told the Signal Tribune that the vessel is about “99.99-percent exact to the Protector,” barring some minor changes, such as improvements to piping to improve efficiency.
Both fireboats are equipped with 10 water cannons, capable of launching a mass capacity of 41,000 gallons per minute at a distance of up to 600 feet, which, according to a Port of Long Beach fact sheet provided at the event, is the equivalent length of two football fields.
The vessels also have two firefighting-foam cannons that can shoot 6,000 gallons per minute at a range of 500 feet.
Together, the two fireboats cost a combined $51.6 million to build, according to the Port of Long Beach. The US Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided a $18.5-million grant toward the cost.
At the event, Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, recognized and congratulated the work of port and LBFD staff, naval architect of the project Robert Allan, Foss Maritime Company and construction manager Jensen Maritime Consultants.
“What you’re seeing today is the future of the green port– […] iconic fireboats, an iconic bridge, the most advanced marine terminal,” he said. “The Port of Long Beach is leading in all respects.”
Bynum said the ship is dedicated in the memory of former harbor commissioner John Kashiwabara, who served from July 23, 1996 to March 2, 2003. He died in early 2010. Members of Kashiwabara’s family were present at the event.
After World War II, Kashiwabara earned a medical degree and joined the US Air Force. He later opened his own medical practice in Long Beach. He was also a member of the Cal State Long Beach board of trustees and president of the governing board for the Long Beach Unified School District.
“Dr. John, as we knew him, was the first Japanese-American to serve on the board and helped port officials communicate more effectively with our transpacific partners,” she said. “Public service was his lifelong passion.”
Kashiwabara’s picture is displayed inside the fireboat’s command-and-communication center (CIC).
During a tour of the ship, Meistrell said the CIC is primarily used to coordinate strategies in the event of any emergency. It also assists in managing communication between the crew.
Vigilance is also equipped with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense systems (CBRN), which allows the crew to perform a full filtration system for any kinds of toxins or radiological particles throughout the entire vessel.
Below the CIC are the galley and a multipurpose/EMS room. Both are stocked with resources, such as food and blankets and medical equipment.
“Our old fireboats were more response-oriented boats,” Meistrell said. “‘Hey, there’s a fire. Hey, there’s something.’ And we’d go out and respond. But, this is more two-fold. We’re going to be a type of mobile-command post for large incidents, as well as […] an insurance policy. […] We went from, yeah, we have firefighting capabilities to now we can do everything.”
At the ceremony, Mayor Robert Garcia called the Vigilance “quite the beast” and touted it as the best fireboat operating in the entire world.
“This boat will be able to provide the best public safety that we can ask for at the port and, really, throughout the region,” he said. “Ports are always vulnerable to issues of national security and homeland security and, so, for us to have this incredible resource here at the Port of Long Beach is really a point of pride for all of us.”