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US Coast Guard bringing in more shipbuilders for offshore patrol cutter program

Offshore Patrol Cutter
Eastern Shipbuilding Group photo of the OPC design

The US Coast Guard has awarded eight contracts to eight shipbuilders for Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) industry studies, in a bid to return the program back on track.

The service originally selected Eastern Shipbuilding Group as the preferred builder of the new class of cutters in 2016.

However, the Category 5 Hurricane Michael made landfall in Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 10, 2018, causing extensive damage to the ESG’s shipyard and the Panama City region.

To address the shipbuilder’s affected capacities to deliver the planned 25 vessels, the service has now awarded design study contracts to eight shipbuilders.

Under their respective contracts, the awardees will assess OPC design and technical data, provided by the coast guard, and the program’s construction approach. Based on their analyses, the awardees will recommend to the coast guard potential strategies and approaches for the follow-on detail design and construction (DD&C).

The awardees will also discuss how they would prepare the OPC functional design for production. The awardees may also identify possible design or systems revisions that would be advantageous to the program if implemented, with strategies to ensure those revisions are properly managed.

The shipbuilders that received the $15 million worth of contracts are Austal USA, Bath Iron Works, Bollinger Shipyards, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Philly Shipyard, and VT Halter Marine.

The Coast Guard said it would use the industry studies results to further inform its follow-on acquisition strategy.

Offshore Patrol Cutter Program

Also known as Heritage-class, the new OPCs will replace the service’s aging medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The 109-meter ships will bridge the capabilities of the national security cutters, which patrol the open ocean, and the fast response cutters, which serve closer to shore. The OPC will have a range of over 9,000 nautical miles and a hangar for an MH-60 or MH-65 helicopter and an unmanned aerial system.

The OPC meets the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports.

The current OPC DD&C contract is for up to four hulls. The service adjusted the contract as part of a request made by the incumbent, Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), for extraordinary relief under the authority of Public Law 85-804.

The first ships in the class, Argus, had originally been scheduled for delivery in 2021.