The Coast Guard and Navy said VT Halter Marine‘s winning design for the new Polar Security Cutter (PSC) “meets or exceeds all threshold requirements” in the ship specification and includes incentives to deliver early.

On Tuesday, VT Halter won a potential $1.9 billion contract to start detail design and construction of up to three PSCs. This will be the first new heavy polar icebreaker of the U.S. in over 40 years. A majority of the contract work will be performed in Pascagoula, Miss. (Defense Daily, April 23).

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is the contracting activity for the award. NAVSEA spokesperson Colleen O’Rourke told Defense Daily while the work is expected to be finished by June 2024, “the contract includes incentives for earlier delivery.”

Artist rendering of the Polar Security Cutter. (Image: VT Halter Marine Inc.)
Artist rendering of the Polar Security Cutter. (Image: VT Halter Marine Inc.)

The contract announcement said $839 million was obligated at award time, larger than the $745.9 million in the contract amount. This disparity is because the department “funded the two awarded CLINs [Contract Line Item Numbers] over the Target Price (almost) to the contract ceiling,” O’Rourke said.

She also noted the PSCs are being funded through $675 million in Coast Guard FY 2019 appropriations as well as $300 million previously appropriated to the Navy shipbuilding and conversion advance procurement account.

Coast Guard spokesman Eric Nagel told Defense Daily that performance parameters include breaking six feet of ice at three knots of continuous speed, a minimum endurance of 80 days, accommodations for 171 people, an aft working deck, the capacity to carry two helicopters, and flexible mission space that can accommodate future mission sets and capabilities.

In early 2017 VT Halter won a one-year $4 million design contract study for the PSC along with Bollinger Shipyards, Fincantieri Marine Group, General Dynamics’ [GD] NASSCO, and Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII].

The contract announcement said VT Halter beat two competitors in the ultimate PSC competition. Of the four other previous competitors, NASSCO confirmed to Defense Daily they did not compete, HII did not comment, and Fincantieri confirmed they did compete and were not selected.

According to an Associated Press report, VT Halter Senior Vice President Robert Socha said the other two final competitors were Bollinger Shipyards and a partnership between Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Philly Shipyard of Philadelphia, Penn.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz reiterated the importance of this contract to build more icebreakers to reach the goal of six vessels for transiting the Arctic and Antarctic.

On Tuesday, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) applauded the award. He represents the state where VT Halter will build the PSCs and is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees the Coast Guard.

“Winning the contract to build the Polar Security Cutter is a great achievement for the talented shipbuilders at VT Halter. The ships we build in Mississippi will help close the gap in our polar defense and ensure American mariners cannot be denied access to the Arctic region by our adversaries,” Wicker said in a statement.

Steven Palazzo (R-Miss), whose district includes Pascagoula, argued the need for the new Polar Security Cutter “has been made clear through countless hearings and briefings” at the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security

“This vote of confidence underscores what I have said for years, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is home to the greatest shipbuilders anywhere in the world,” Palazzo continued.