Bollinger Would Build New Coast Guard Icebreakers in Tampa

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, breaks through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Bollinger Shipyards says it will build the U.S. Coast Guard’s new icebreakers at its facilities in Tampa, Florida if it is eventually selected as the main contractor in the $2.1 billion program.

The Louisiana-based shipbuilder announced on Monday it has selected Tampa Shipyard for the design and construction of up to three heavy polar icebreakers, and three additional medium sized icebreakers currently under consideration by the Coast Guard.

Back in March the U.S. Navy, in collaboration with the Coast Guard, issued a request for proposal for the advance procurement and detail design work for the USCG’s first new heavy polar icebreaker in more than 40 years. The RFP included options for the detail design and construction of up two three heavy polar icebreakers. Three medium-sized icebreakers are also being considered.

A single contract is expected to be awarded in 2019. 

“We are excited to respond to the Coast Guard’s need to recapitalize its depleted polar capabilities,” said Ben Bordelon, Bollinger’s President and CEO. “We expect to fill our capable production facility in Tampa with over 1,000 highly skilled full-time shipyard workers beginning as early as 2020. Just the three heavies alone could keep the facility fully utilized for nearly a decade. Should we be awarded the contract for the heavies and the anticipated mediums constructed in Tampa, we could be busy here through 2035. Along with the supporting infrastructure of vendors, subcontractors and suppliers, we would expect that locating this program in Tampa will have the benefit of well over 3,500 quality, high paying, full-time jobs with solid benefits packages.”

Bollinger currently is producing the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter fleet at its facility in Lockport, LA where over 1,000 full-time equivalents have been engaged since 2008. Under the current program, 29 vessels have been delivered to date and Bollinger anticipates the number to reach 58 vessels.

“We have built over 150 vessels for the Coast Guard in Louisiana beginning in the early 1980’s.  We anticipate taking our cumulative knowledge of this customer, our expertise in building complex vessels and serial production techniques to Florida and creating an even greater economic engine than we presently have,” Bordelon stated.

The 399-foot USCGC Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, is currently the only operational heavy icebreaker in the U.S. fleet.

The Coast Guard also has the 420-foot medium icebreaker USCGC Healy, which commissioned in 2000. A second heavy icebreaker, USCGC Polar Sea, was placed in commissioned, inactive status by the Coast Guard in 2011 and the service is evaluating options to reactivate the ship.

The Coast Guard has said it expects the Polar Star to remain in service through approximately 2020 to 2023.

Last year, Bollinger Shipyards was among five companies to be awarded firm fixed-price contracts for heavy polar icebreaker design studies and analysis. 

Delivery of the first newbuild heavy icebreaker is not planned until 2023.