The main drive shaft that was installed in the first new medium endurance cutter being built for the Coast Guard did not properly fit on the ship and has been removed, threatening the program schedule, the Coast Guard disclosed in a story published by Forbes last Thursday.

The first offshore patrol cutter (OPC), the ARGUS, is being built by Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) and is 75 percent complete. The 360-foot cutter is currently scheduled for delivery in June 2023.

The problem with the drive shaft was discovered when it was being installed in the ship and found to not align properly with the coupling. The drive shaft transfers power from the ship’s engines to its propeller.

The shaft was supplied by Rolls-Royce and was certified by the American Bureau of Shipbuilding (ABS) prior to delivery as mandated by the U.S. government. Rolls-Royce is a long-time supplier of engine and propulsion systems to the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and customers worldwide.

The Coast Guard last Friday told Defense Daily the shaft issue is limited to the first two OPCs, saying, “The supplied shafts do not conform to the contractual requirements of the OPC because they were not produced to design specifications,” adding that it is a production, not a design, issue.

The Coast Guard indicated that the government will not be paying for the fix.

The Coast Guard is also working with ESG on a “repair and remediation plan,” the service said. “The determination of who will pay for it will be worked between the prime contractor and sub-contractor.”

Once the repair and remediation plan are finalized, an estimated launch and delivery date for the ARGUS will be available, the Coast Guard said. The launch had been scheduled for this year.

In a statement last Friday, Joey D’Isernia, president of ESG, said, “We received shafting for OPC Hulls 1 and 2 that were not in compliance with the NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) requirements called for in the OPC vessel specifications. These two sets of shafting were delivered to our facility with signed and stamped certificates of approval from the American Bureau of Shipping, the U.S. Government-mandated certification authority for the OPC Program, certifying that they were in physical compliance with the ABS approved design artifacts. We later discovered that both shipsets of shafting were non-compliant due to having out of tolerance physical dimensions.”

D’Isernia also stated that the Coast Guard, Rolls-Royce and ABS were immediately aware of the shaft issue because they had representatives on-site “overseeing” installation.

“In the meantime, we are coordinating with the Coast Guard to advance post launch production and test activities to be completed prior to launch, in order to mitigate delivery schedule impacts and launch the ship at an even greater level of completion,” he said.

ESG is building the first four OPCs and last week said it had begun construction on the fourth vessel. The Argus had been scheduled for delivery this year but increased scope on the contract to accommodate a combat and radar system during the build that had been planned as a post-delivery modification added 10 months to the schedule.

The Coast Guard announced the contract modification in May.

Disclosure of the shaft issue was followed shortly afterward by ESG lodging a bid protest with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims related to the Coast Guard’s award in late June of a $3.3 billion Stage 2 contract to Austal USA for OPCs 5 through 15. ESG in July protested the award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) but withdrew the protest in July, charging that the Coast Guard wouldn’t share its scoring results and Austal’s proposal as part of the company’s discovery request.

ESG’s complaint was filed with the court last Friday. Details of the protest are covered by a protective order.

In its earlier protest to the GAO, Eastern Shipbuilding alleged that Austal had an unfair competitive advantage due to having a retired Coast Guard commander as an employee working on the proposal after he was part of the Stage 2 program reviews while still in the service. ESG also pointed out that Austal is new to building steel ships, which the OPCs are, and that its legacy in aluminum shipbuilding doesn’t transfer easily.

The Stage 2 competition was established after ESG had begun construction of the Argus. The company in 2016 won the contract for detail design and construction of the first 11 OPCs but had to seek cost and schedule relief two years later after Hurricane Michael damaged its facilities in Florida. That relief was granted by the Department of Homeland Security but limited the contract to just four ships.

Rolls-Royce is also the supplier of the drive shafts for the OPCs to be built by Austal. In 2017, Rolls-Royce also said it will supply the OPC’s controllable pitch propellers, Promas rudders, bow thrusters, steering gear, fin stabilizers and MTU marine generator sets.

The OPC is the Coast Guard’s top priority with a build plan of 25 vessels. The ships will replace legacy 270- and 210-foot medium endurance cutters that are aging and costly to maintain.