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NEWS | April 8, 2015

SERMC Outfitting New Diver Support Boat

By Dan Smithyman SERMC

MAYPORT Fla. (NNS) -- The Dive Locker at Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) has a new $3 million toy, but this toy is built for serious business.

A Diver Support Boat (DSB) arrived in Mayport in mid-March amid little fanfare, but those who would benefit from this new vessel greeted her warmly. The 65-foot vessel is one of 20 distributed around the fleet replacing a hodge-podge of dive boats that are mostly reconfigured Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM), or "Mike" boats.

"This (DSB) was specifically designed and built to support dive operations," said Chief Navy Diver Josh Miller. "This is an all-in-one platform."

The DSB's features are impressive: twin Cummins diesel engines powering two propellers, a bow thruster, two generators, one low, and one high-pressure air compressors, one hydraulic pressure unit, air conditioning, a tankless hot water heater, a 600-pound winch and aft cameras for viewing from inside the cabin. The aluminum alloy construction prevents rusting and eliminates the need for painting.

The main deck includes an enclosed cabin containing a diver's equipment console, diver's prep station, workbench, storage and an embarked electronic system. The open aft deck will be home to much of the divers' equipment and can be enclosed with a removable canopy to protect personnel and equipment from harsh weather conditions.

Below deck, a galley includes seating for six people, microwave, refrigerator, sink, refrigerator, hard-piped industrial sized coffeemaker and stainless steel countertop. The shower/changing room and head are also below deck. The engineering spaces contain the engines, generators, air compressors and a hydraulic pressure unit. The DSB has a 1,000 gallon fuel capacity.

Navy Diver 1st Class Edward Briggs said the boat came to SERMC as part of a NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems) initiative to standardize the dive boats used across the fleet. He said a small company, Marine Group Boatworks, from San Diego has been building them for several years.

"The two submarine tenders were the first to receive them a few years ago," Briggs said, referring to USS Frank Cable (AS 40) and USS Emory S. Land (AS 39). "And there are a few variations based on location and specific mission."

Briggs said the DSB serving the Groton, Connecticut base has aluminum bulkheads completely enclosing the aft deck because of the cold weather. Other boats are a few feet shorter, and some have longer aft decks.

"We'll be able to perform more work pierside," Miller said. "Dry dock is expensive, and working from the pier can sometimes be hard because we need a place to park our truck. This boat allows us to have everything we need to do work from outboard of the ship."

Navy Diver 2nd Class Kevin Swanson, said many of the jobs the SERMC divers perform can go 36 to 48 hours. Working from the pier does not protect them from the elements, and finding a head or a meal can also be challenging, he said.

"This boat removes those challenges because it provides us with a place to rest, shower, eat or use the head during long dive operations," Swanson said. "We can keep working and still escape the heat or cold or rain."

The new boat is not quite ready for work. SERMC divers still have to move aboard with their dive equipment such as hoses, tanks, dive suits, and assorted tools.

"We're still learning all the systems and writing our procedures for start-up and regular maintenance," Briggs said. "We're also going to send a few guys to San Diego to coxswain school and a few to engine repair school."

While the boat was designed for harbors, channels and rivers, it can negotiate the open ocean as long as the sea state is not too high.

"It can handle sea state 2, but not recommended for sea state 3," Briggs explained.

In sea state 2, winds are at least nine knots, with waves at least one-and-a-half feet high. Sea state 3 is defined as waves up to four feet. Because the draft of the boat - the vertical distance from the waterline to the lowest part of the boat in the water - is only 3 feet, the DSB is not as stable as deep-draft vessels.

The framed bumper on the bow of the boat allows it to tie up without damaging other vessels whether it be a surface ship or submarine. On the stern is a dive platform where divers can enter and exit the water using a built in ladder.

SERMC divers anticipate the DSB will be fully operational by mid-to-late April.