Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy awarded VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, a contract for the Detail Design and Construction of the Coast Guard’s lead Polar Security Cutter (PSC).
The initial award is valued at $745.9 million and supports non-recurring engineering and detail design of the PSC class as well as procurement of long lead-time materials and construction of the first ship. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs. If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion.
“The Polar Security Cutter is key to our nation’s presence in the polar regions,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. “With the strong support of both the Trump Administration and the United States Congress, this contract award marks an important step towards building the nation’s full complement of six polar icebreakers to meet the unique mission demands that have emerged from increased commerce, tourism, research, and international activities in the Arctic and Antarctic.”
The announcement comes after decades of budget cuts, expanded mission requirements (e.g. the war on terrorism) and a lack of US Navy support for icebreaker funding left the USCG struggling to meet the nation’s most basic needs in the Arctic. The 42 year old Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is currently the United States’ only operational heavy icebreaker and is suffering from age and a lack of funding. In January the Polar Star, during her annual resupply mission to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, experienced multiple mechanical issues, including ship-wide power outages, all against the backdrop of the partial government shutdown that left Coast Guard personnel temporarily without pay.
The acquisition of Polar Security Cutters is being jointly managed across the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard through an IPO that leverages the expertise of both organizations to deliver a fleet of highly capable, multi-mission ships. NAvay Systems Command (NAVSEA) is the lead contracting authority on the project.
“The US Navy has the expertise, funding and a level of support in congress that the USCG just doesn’t have.” one senior Coast Guard officer, who asked not to be named, told gCaptain. “A lack of support from US Navy flag officers was the single biggest obstacle to icebreaker funding but, with new threats from China and Russia, they are no longer apathetic to our needs. Their support for this project has been a godsend.”
Construction on the first PSC is planned to begin in 2021 with delivery planned for 2024; however, the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery.