When I say "woefully outdated," I'm not exaggerating: The new fireboat, to be christened the Three Forty Three (after the 343 firemen and women who died in the 9/11 attacks), is replacing a boat acquired in 1954, and a very similar boat to be introduced later this year will be replacing one christened in 1938. The boats were so old (say it with me: how old were they?) that parts had to be specially manufactured, because those models are so far out of production. There were serious deficiencies with the old equipment—but the new boats are some of the fastest and most powerful in the world.
Previously, the police and fire departments had inadequate speed and range, and couldn't even get too near to chemical or other toxic spills—the boats were designed merely to put out fires. But with our unfortunate new reality, patrolling for chemical and biological attacks, terrorist bombings and the like, new equipment was badly needed. The New York Times tells the story.
The 140-foot Three Forty Three fireboat is a $27 million ship is capable of 18 knots (about 20mph). It's equipped with a 50-foot crane that can hold two people in a basket at its end, and actually has a camera attached on the underside to take a closer look at the water. It's the longest and heaviest fireboat in the world, twice as fast as its predecessor, and can pump more than twice the volume of water. It's also equipped with 3,600 gallons of foam concentrate for fuel fires, compared to its predecessor's 500. Even better, it has air filters that enable the boat to get far closer to chemical spills than the older boats ever could.
The police boat, as yet unnamed, is a different breed; built for speed, it's a 45-foot long, $2.5 million boat capable of 45 knots (52mph). It's also got a huge range, 250 nautical miles (288 land miles—why those would be different is a question best answered by someone who grew up near an ocean), which is vital for patrolling the New York City metro area's 400 miles of shoreline. It'll be the first in the fleet to right itself—if tipped upside-down by inclement weather or sea conditions, it'll naturally turn itself right-side up. In the same vein, it comes equipped with self-righting bulletproof floatation vests: If an unconscious person wearing one of these vests falls in the water, he'll end up face up.
The boats are being made at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama, Florida, and the long trip north to New York should give them the opportunity to break in. It's great to finally give those patrolling the water some legitimate equipment to do it with.