The introduced its new 33-foot full cabin SAFE Boat during a ceremony held at on Friday.
The new high-tech search and rescue vessel — made possible through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency/Department of Homeland Security Port Security Grant program — is equipped with the latest technology including side scan sonar and “FLIR,” infrared scanning technology that enables marine officers to detect people in the water or on shore from miles away. It will enable Fairfield Police to not only conduct search and rescue operations year round and in all conditions, but also to respond to mass scale marine emergencies such as acts of terrorism.
Powered by three outboard engines, the 900 horsepower vessel is extremely fast and maneuverable. It has capacity for up to four crew and 16 passengers and can reach speeds of up to 40 knots. What’s more the boat is equipped with a special aluminum hull that allows it to be beached as opposed to moored. It also sports the latest navigation and communication technologies and can slice through up to six foot seas.
The $450,000 boat is free to the town — the only caveat is that the town’s marine officers must be available to respond to emergencies elsewhere in Long Island Sound, from Greenwich to Stratford, 24/7, if called upon. In addition the town must pay for fuel and maintenance of the vessel. Training to officers on how to use the vessel is free through the Port Security grant program.
The new boat joins the Fairfield Marine Unit’s two other vessels at its new facility in South Benson Marina. The Marine Unit includes officers Grant Dalling, Gregory Carroll and James Wiltse.
The ceremony was attended by local, state, and federal officials, including U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Fairfield Interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau, as well as top brass from numerous area police departments, and representatives from the US Coast Guard.
Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara recognized Officer Wiltse as “the driving force” behind the acquisition of boat. He said Wiltse spent three years designing the boat from the ground up and handling the paper work for the grant process.
MacNamara said Wiltse’s console design was so well received by SAFE Boat, the company manufactures the boats, that SAFE Boat recommended it to the US Navy, which in turn ordered 30 boats using Wiltse’s console design. In addition, MacNamara said, Wiltse’s design will be incorporated in future “Defender Class” versions of the boat starting in 2012.
Fairfield now joins numerous other coastal Connecticut towns that have received grants for similar vessels — and many others are awaiting such grants, including .