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Coast Guard Reports Limited Progress on Prototype Modules for Polar Security Cutter

Artist rendering of the Polar Security Cutter. Credit: Bollinger Shipyards

Coast Guard Reports Limited Progress on Prototype Modules for Polar Security Cutter

Malte Humpert
Total Views: 3090
March 27, 2024

By Malte Humpert (gCaptain) –

Just days after securing funding in the FY 2025 budget to acquire a commercial icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard says it has made little headway on the fabrication of the first prototype modules for the Polar Security Cutter (PSC).

Bollinger Shipyards began work on up to eight prototype modules in July 2023. According to a Coast Guard spokesperson, work on the first three modules remains ongoing.

“In July 2023, the Coast Guard authorized the shipbuilder to begin early construction on the first of up to eight low-risk ship modules under a Prototype Fabrication Assessment (PFA) initiative. Three PFA modules are under construction and will enable the shipyard to validate processes and tools involved in PSC production and identify improvements to be implemented in design and production of later modules,” the spokesperson told gCaptain.

The test work is related to the use of a high-strength steel alloy called EQ47 suitable for the Arctic’s low temperatures. According to Bollinger Shipyards the completion of each test module was expected to take around four months

“Each module requires approximately four months of labor, during which time Bollinger will continue recruiting and training additional members of the workforce to manage the transition to production of the lead hull as the prototype modules are completed,” the company explained in July 2023.

That original timeline appears to be slipping as nine months later not a single module has been completed. 

“As of this month, unit 1 is approximately 42% complete; unit 2 is approximately 27% complete, and unit 3 is approximately 5% complete,” the Coast Guard elaborated.

Each Polar Security Cutter consists of a total of 85 modules. 

The progress update puts into a new light comments by the Coast Guard about currently devising a new program schedule. 

“The Coast Guard is working with the shipbuilder to rebaseline [the program], which will result in a new program schedule. This is expected to be completed later this year and will be critical to informing future budget requests,” the spokesperson told gCaptain. 

The program schedule has been revised several times in the past. Originally the first PSC was expected to enter into service in 2024. According to comments made last year by Coast Guard leadership, design issues could push delivery into 2028. Additional delays now appear likely. 

The Coast Guard did not request additional funds for the PSC for the 2025 budget year, but reiterated that it had received sufficient funding during prior appropriations to continue the program in the interim.

Lockport, Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards acquired the PSC program in 2022 through its acquisition of VT Halter Marine, which was awarded the PSC program contract in 2019.

The acquisition of the Polar Security Cutter remains the “top priority” Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Linda Fagan said during the 2024 State of the Coast Guard Address last week. 

However, at least in the near-term the Coast Guard’s focus appears to have shifted to acquiring a commercial icebreaker. It solicited a firm-fixed-price contract from Edison Chouest Offshore for icebreaking offshore supply vessel M/V Aiviq earlier this month and now secured $125 million to purchase it.  

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