The Coast Guard late last Friday began asking for bids for the second round of design and construction of its Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) with a contract award for up to 11 ships expected in the second quarter of fiscal year 2022.

Under the planned contract for Stage 2 of the OPC program, the winning shipbuilder would receive a construction contract for the first ship in FY ’23, followed by single ship production contracts in fiscal years 2024 and 2005 before transitioning to two ships per year beginning in FY ’26, according to the schedule in the Request for Proposals (RFP). The award for construction of the 10th and 11th OPCs in Stage 2 is planned for FY ’29.

Delivery of the lead ship will be required 39 months after the production option is exercised.

Stage 2 refers to the recompete of the OPC program beginning with hulls five through 16 following the Coast Guard’s decision in October 2019 to terminate the original OPC contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) after up to the first four ships are built and delivered.

ESG won the OPC detailed design contract in September 2016. The award to begin construction the first 360-foot medium-endurance cutter was let in September 2018 but a Category 5 hurricane that ripped through ESG’s Florida-based shipyard the following month severely damaged facilities and forced the company to seek contract and schedule relief. That relief was granted but also resulted in the decision to recompete the program beginning with the fifth ship.

ESG is scheduled to deliver the first OPC in FY ’22. Construction of the second ship is also underway.

The OPC is the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority and the plan is to ultimately acquire 25 of the ships, which bridge the gap between the high-endurance National Security Cutters and the Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), which operate closer to shore.

With only 11 ships planned for Stage 2, it looks like the Coast Guard will host a third competitive round at some point for the remaining nine vessels.

The Coast Guard had planned to recompete the OPC program after ESG built up to 11 ships, although the company would have been in a strong position to win a follow-up buy given it would be operating at peak production efficiency by then. The Coast Guard recompeted its FRC program after just more than half of the originally planned 58 cutters were under contract, but no one bid against prime contractor Bollinger Shipyards for the second contract.

In March 2020, the Coast Guard awarded Stage 2 OPC design study contracts to eight companies: ESG, Bollinger, Austal USA, General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], Philly Shipyard, and VT Halter Marine. HII is building the NSCs and VT Halter Marine is under contract to provide the Coast Guard up to three new heavy polar icebreakers.

Offers are due on May 28 for the Stage 2 OPC RFP.

The OPCs will replace the Coast Guard’s aging 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters that are approximately 30 and 50 years old, respectively, and are increasingly costly to maintain.