The Coast Guard still plans to recompete production of its Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) before half of the planned buy of 25 vessels are purchased with a Request for Proposals currently expected to be issued for new bids in FY ’24, a service spokesman told Defense Daily on Friday.

Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group on Thursday was awarded a potential $2.4 billion contract by the Coast Guard for detail design and production of up to nine OPCs. The initial order is for $110.2 million and the Phase II contract includes priced options for the lead ship and eight additional vessels.

Notional OPC design is 360-feet long, a 54-foot beam, and 17-foot draft. Graphic: Eastern Shipbuilding Group.
Notional OPC design is 360-feet long, a 54-foot beam, and 17-foot draft. Graphic: Eastern Shipbuilding Group.

Eastern said on Thursday evening that its contract also contains options for two additional OPCs, which would bring the initial contract to 11 ships. To help it keep costs down, the Coast Guard is planning to recompete the construction phase of the program fulfill its requirement of 25 vessels.

The Coast Guard spokesman said that the life-cycle cost estimate for the 25-ship OPC program remains at $10.5 billion.

The Coast Guard recently recompeted its production contract for its 154-foot Fast Response Cutter, which is built by Bollinger Shipyards. Bollinger is the incumbent for the FRC and was the only bidder for the recompete.

Under the initial $1.5 billion contract, Bollinger is building 32 FRCs. In May the Coast Guard awarded the company $1.4 billion contract for the 26 remaining FRCs.

Eastern beat Bollinger and General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works division for the OPC contract. The losing bidders could protest the contract to Eastern within five days after the Coast Guard debriefs them on its reasons for the selection decision.

The OPC is the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority and will replace its aging fleet of medium-endurance cutters.

“The Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition is the Coast Guard’s highest investment priority, and we are proud to announce this important milestone,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft said in a statement. “The Offshore Patrol Cutter will replace our aging medium endurance cutters and provide the majority of offshore presence by the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet. Whether combating transnational organized criminal networks off Central America or patrolling in the increasingly accessible Arctic, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will ensure our nation’s maritime security and economic interests are preserved for decades to come.”

Eastern said that its OPC design is 360-feet long, 54-feet wide, a draft of 17-feet and capable of speed in excess of 22 knots. The vessels will have a range of 10,200 nautical miles at 14 knots and endurance for 60-day patrol cycles, the Coast Guard said.

The ship include a Bofors 57mm gun on its forward deck and a flight deck capable of carrying an MH-60R or MH-6 helicopter, and an unmanned aircraft system, and can carry three over-the-horizon small boats. The vessel will also be equipped with a C4ISR suite.

The Bofors 57mm gun, manufactured by Sweden’s AB Bofors, is also on the Coast Guard’s 418-foot high-endurance National Security Cutter (NSC). Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is the shipbuilder for the NSC and has delivered five of the vessels and is under contract for four more. Congress is debating whether to add funding for a 10th NSC even though the Coast Guard’s original program of record was for eight NSCs to replace 12 aging Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters.

Construction on the lead OPC will begin in 2018 and delivery is expected in FY ’21.

The Coast Guard spokesman said that once the NSC fleet is fully delivered and operational the service will reassess its surface fleet mix, if necessary, with regard to the planned buy of 25 OPCs.

Eastern is touting its reputation as a leading shipbuilder in the construction of mid-range tonnage ships and a record of delivering 149 out of 150 ships on time and on budget since 2002. The company said that in the past 10 years it has delivered ships ranging from 80-feet in length to 433-feet in length “many with complexity comparable to the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Efficient, commercially based production processes ensure affordability in the construction of these Coast Guard vessels.”

Brian D’Isernia, CEO of Eastern, and Joey D’Isernia, president of Eastern, said in a statement that “We knew form the beginning that the U.S. Coast Guard would appreciate our excellent performance record of on time delivery of high quality vessels built by our first-rate craftsmen. “We believe that the Coast Guard is going to get the best value for its money and the finest vessels to success in its mission.”

Eastern said it has spent more than $75 million since 2008 on upgrading and expanding its facilities and shipbuilding capabilities to meet the needs of its commercial and government customers. The company has 1,500 employees and plans to expand its workforce with more craftsmen, engineers and administrators to meet the OPC requirements.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), said in a statement that Eastern’s OPC win could mean up to 2,000 new jobs to the Panama City area.

Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said in a client note after the Coast Guard’s OPC announcement that for GD’s Bath division a program win would have helped the company with a “smoother transition” as it winds down work later this decade on the Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyer program while the Navy makes plans for its next surface combatant. Now, he says, GD will have to rely on the DDG-51 destroyer program or the possible election of Donald Trump (R) as president and the potential for increased DDG-51 production.

Eastern’s portfolio of ships that it has built or are under construction include a range of tug and towboats, fireboats, offshore supply vessels, ferries, fishing vessels, and specialty vessels such as catamaran ferries and research vessels, and dredges.