Study of the Navy’s waterborne firefighting capability after the loss of the Bonhomme Richard


The following is the Navy’s March 2022 study, requested by Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, whether the service should purchase additional fireboats as a result of the loss of the USS Bonhomme Richard (DG-6).

From the report

The HASC Report accompanying the FY2022 NDAA (117-118) – NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2022 directs the Secretary of the Navy to prepare a brief to the House Armed Services Committee by March 1, 2022 which details the findings associated with the USS MAN RICHARD (BHR) investigation of the incident and identified deficiencies that would have allowed the Navy to respond more adequately to the loss of the BHR; and develop a fireboat response plan at major naval bases. The committee is of the view that there is a lack of fireboats at U.S. Navy bases, and that this lack of access to dedicated fireboats may pose a safety hazard to sailors and workers. civilians and can expose warships worth tens of billions of dollars to unnecessary danger. The committee is particularly concerned about the loss of the BHR in 2020 and that fireboat access may have contributed to the complete loss of this warship.


Following the BHR incident, where Navy firefighting equipped tugs were employed, the Navy reinforced the importance of waterborne and airborne firefighting capability and ensured that both are incorporated into Navy installation emergency response plans. The Navy believes that the existing waterfront firefighting capability and capability is sufficient and that there is no requirement for dedicated fireboats to meet onboard firefighting requirements. .


As noted, Navy tugs have inherent firefighting capabilities. Since the BHR incident, the Commander of Navy Installations Command has issued a directive (Attachment 1) to ensure that functional area annexes of the Navy Installation Emergency Response Plan and annexes specific to major onboard fire hazards include tugboat firefighting capabilities.


The lack of dedicated fire boats does not directly equate to a lack of firefighting capability. The Navy maintains a fleet of tugboats with firefighting capability at Navy ports. These tugs were used extensively during the BHR incident. The BHR investigation did not identify any specific fireboat-related shortcomings that would have allowed the Navy to respond more effectively.

Download the document here.


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