PORTLAND — The city’s $3.2 million fireboat returned to service Tuesday night, about three weeks after it was taken to a Rockland boatyard to repair damage inflicted when it hit an underwater object during what was described at the time as a training mission.

Twelve civilians were aboard the vessel when the accident occurred, and two firefighters were suspended as a result. The city has since changed its policies for when civilians are allowed aboard the Fire Department’s three boats.

City officials said the cost of repairs amounted to $54,000, about $16,000 more than expected.

Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said the fireboat, the City of Portland IV, returned to the city late Tuesday afternoon. The boat was docked Tuesday night at the Maine State Pier between the Bay Mist, a Casco Bay Lines ferry, and the city’s other fireboat, the Joseph C. Cavallaro. The pier is part of the Casco Bay Municipal Ferry Terminal complex.

“Everything appears to be in good working order,” LaMontagne said. The boat was expected to be up and running Tuesday night, he said.

The City of Portland IV has been undergoing repairs at Rockland Marine for the past three weeks to fix damage suffered Oct. 15 when it struck something near Fort Gorges in Portland Harbor. The impact sheared off a shaft and damaged a propeller and the rudder.

It was the second accident involving the new fireboat since it was launched in September 2009. The boat ran aground in November 2009 in Whitehead Passage, the channel between Peaks and Cushing islands, suffering $90,000 worth of damage. That time, it was out of commission for three months.

An investigation by The Portland Press Herald found that more than two-thirds of the trips made in 2010 by the Fire Department’s three boats – the department also operates a smaller powerboat – were for non-emergency purposes.

City Manager Mark H. Rees said during an interview Tuesday night that the fireboats will longer be used for civilian excursions without his approval. Rees said LaMontagne and his staff will continue to decide how and when to use the fireboats to respond to fires and other public safety situations.

“The use of the fireboat by civilians not associated directly with the Fire Department’s mission will no longer be tolerated,” Rees said.

Rees released an email sent to him by LaMontagne that details the costs of repairing the City of Portland IV.

The email says the city will be responsible for paying the insurance deductible fee of $25,000 and its insurance carrier will cover the remaining $29,000.

Rockland Marine will be paid $38,000 for labor costs, repairs and hauling the boat out of the water.

A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd., the Nova Scotia-based company that built the fireboat, will be paid $16,000 for manufacturing and replacing the boat’s rudder and repairing the propeller and shaft.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com