The U.S. Coast Guard is moving forward with Austal USA on the detail design phase of up to 11 vessels in the service’s offshore patrol cutter (OPC) acquisition program.
The Coast Guard announced last week it has given notice to the Mobile, Alabama-based shipbuilder that it can proceed with the design work following the withdrawal of a protest filed by Eastern Shipbuilding in July with the Government Accountability Office contesting the Coast Guard’s selection of Austal USA as the stage 2 contractor.
The Coast Guard in June awarded Austal USA with the fixed-price incentive contract for the design and construction of up to 11 OPCs. The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for OPC number five, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.
Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding was originally selected by the Coast Guard in 2016 to design and construct the first batch of nine OPCs, at the time marking largest-ever vessel procurement contract ever awarded in the history of the Coast Guard. However, Eastern Shipbuilding’s Panama City shipyard was severely damaged when Hurricane Michael came ashore in 2018 just as construction of the first vessel was set to begin, prompting the Coast Guard to divide the program into two stages and revise cost and schedule goals, ultimately leading to the Austal USA award.
In total, the Coast Guard has committed to spend over $12 billion to acquire a fleet of 25 OPCs to replace its aging fleet Medium Endurance Cutters. Under the revised program, ESG would build only the first four OPCs in the program, not the nine that it had originally been contracted for.
In 2020, the GAO issued a report finding that the Coast Guard accepted “significant risk” related to design, schedule, and cost of the program even before the hurricane hit Eastern Shipbuilding.
The Coast Guard’s 110-meter steel OPCs have range of 10,200 nautical miles at 14 knots and a 60-day endurance period, capable of conducting a variety of missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue operations.
Eastern Shipbuilding started construction on the third OPC in September at its Panama City shipyard.
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