The Coast Guard last Friday awarded contracts to eight shipbuilders for design studies for the follow-on detailed design and construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, which the service reopened to competition last year after deciding to terminate the contract with the existing shipbuilder after up to four vessels are built.

The nine awardees include Austal USA, Bollinger Shipyards, General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works, Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), which is the current OPC shipbuilder, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], Philly Shipyard, Inc., and VT Halter Marine, Inc.

Each of the shipbuilders, except ESG, received initial wards of $2 million. ESG’s award is for $1.1 million with the potential for $1.2 million overall. VT Halter Marine’s contract is worth up to $2.9 million and the rest of the companies’ awards are worth up to $3 million.

Nine shipbuilders made proposals and initially the Coast Guard selected GD’s National Steel and Shipbuilding Company for an award but the company decided not to participate, a Coast Guard spokesman told Defense Daily.

The study contracts are for six months. The Coast Guard said that participating in the studies isn’t required to bid for the follow-on design and acquisition.

The Coast Guard said the study contracts will include analyzing and assessing the technical effort, cost risks, and schedule risks associated with the OPC recompete effort and recommending strategies and approaches for the follow-on detailed design and construction. The shipbuilders “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 Coast Guard said.

After Hurricane Michael in October 2018 ravaged ESG’s facilities in Florida, the shipbuilder sought relief from its contract. Last October, the Coast Guard granted that relief for construction and delivery of the first four OPCs and also said it would reopen the competition to build the final 21 ships due to uncertainties with the impact of the storm on ESG and the shipbuilder’s ability to ramp-up its workforce to support production of two OPCs per year.

The new industry studies and recompetition are aimed at mitigating risk to the OPC program, which is the service’s top acquisition priority.

ESG has begun construction of the first OPC with delivery planned for 2022, a year later than originally planned. In the original competition, the company beat out bids from Bollinger and GD for the OPC. In an earlier round, the Coast Guard eliminated HII and VT Halter Marine from the competition. HII builds the Coast Guard’s high-endurance National Security Cutters (NSCs), Bollinger the service’s Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), and VT Halter Marine is under contract to build and deliver up to three heavy polar icebreakers for the service.

The OPCs will replace the Coast Guard’s fleet of aging medium-endurance cutters and bridge the gap between the NSCs and FRCs.

A notional schedule earlier this year shows the Coast Guard hopes to award the detailed design and construction contract for the follow-on OPC in January 2022, with construction beginning in 2023 and delivery of the first ship under the new contract in the government’s fiscal year 2026.