The Coast Guard on Wednesday told shipbuilder Austal USA to proceed with the detail design work on the Stage 2 contract for the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) after Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) withdrew its protest over the award, although it isn’t conceding defeat.

ESG plans to pursue its legal options in U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a company official confirmed for Defense Daily. The Fl0rida-based shipbuilder says the Coast Guard hasn’t shared its scoring results and Austal’s proposal a under government protective order, which it argues is typically done in a protest situation.

Late Wednesday, Joey D’Isernia, ESG’s president issued a statement saying “The federal procurement process is designed to be fair and transparent. Ordinarily, the government disclosed reasonable justification for its award decisions to the attorneys representing the parties in a protest. The government has declined to voluntarily disclose the information that might offer that justification. As a result, we are seeking the information and justification through a different legal pathway.”

ESG, which is constructing the first four OPCs, in July protested the Coast Guard’s award of the potential $3.3 billion contract to Austal for 11 of the 360-foot medium endurance cutters. ESG said Austal had an unfair competitive advantage because a retired Coast Guard commander who worked on the Stage 2 program reviews while he was still with the service later joined Austal and worked on their proposal for the ship.

ESG also highlighted that Austal is new to building steel ships and its legacy with aluminum vessels doesn’t easily transfer to steel construction, which the OPC is.

The initial award to Austal is valued at $208.3 million for detail design and long-lead time materials for the fifth OPC. The Coast Guard’s requirements for Stage 2 include commonality with the first four ships in areas such as hull and propulsion systems. The Coast Guard is allowing flexibility for design elements that lower life-cycle costs and provide production and operational efficiency and performance.

The program of record for the OPC is 25 ships and the program will be recompeted again toward the end of Austal’s production run.

The Coast Guard decided to recompete the program after a severe hurricane in 2018 damaged ESG’s shipbuilding facilities in Florida, forcing the company to seek cost and schedule relief. The relief was granted but the service decided it would end ESG’s production contract after the first four OPCs in favor of the Stage 2 recompete, which wasn’t scheduled until the first 11 ships were delivered.