The Coast Guard Meets With Potential OPC Builders, But No Rush

Federal Times reports the Coast Guard is meeting with ship builders interested in participating in the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, August 10-20. The plan is to build 25 ships to replace the entire existing fleet of WMECs (29 ships if I count right).

Federal Times quotes Carl McGill, surface systems chief for the Coast Guard and the OPC contracting officer, “After this round of talks is concluded, the next event for the OPC program will be an industry day, probably in November. A draft request for proposals is expected to be released “early next year,” McGill said, with a pre-solicitation conference to be held about a month later.

“Sometime next year three shipyards should receive Coast Guard contracts to prepare detailed OPC designs — an effort expected to take up to two years. A down-select to one shipyard is expected to be made in late 2014 or early 2015. The first OPCs are expected to be delivered in 2018 or 2019.”

And the oldest 210s will be how old then? 54 years old. Not to mention Acushnet and Alex Haley.

And when do we expect to see Arctic Patrol Cutters? And new Ice Breakers? Icebreaking tugs? Inland buoy tenders?

Are we behind the power curve? I know this is not the fault of the current administration, but we don’t seem to be making our case before Congress. Want to stimulate the economy. Ship building is a good way. We fought WWII in half the time it will take before we see the first OPC, and we did design and build a few ships during that time.

Think our MECs are having problems now, wait five years, no wait eight or nine.

And shouldn’t we really be building 33 to replace all the MECs and the short fall in 378 replacements.

We have to do better.

21 thoughts on “The Coast Guard Meets With Potential OPC Builders, But No Rush

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Coast Guard Meets With Potential OPC Builders, But No Rush - --

  2. Chuck,

    I commented some time back about how the Coast Guard was able to do more with much less than it seems to be now doing less with more. Even in the 1890s once the money was approved the cruising cutters were built and in operation in about a year. The fear then if they delayed they would loose the funding–they were probably right. I suppose the thought process today is that since future funding will be hard to get time should be taken to get a good outcome. However, recent history has shown this idea to be flawed. It does not seem to matter how much time and money spent, the product is still inferior. So quicker, may produce a better produce because slower certainly has not.

    I believe there was an article in Proceedings about the need to reopen the Navy’s old ship yards. Don’t forget some of the 327s were built at the Charleston Navy Ship Yard. One would think that the requirement to build 4 to 6 ships at a time would be in the mix. They all don’t have to go to the same ship builder.

    The 327s and Lake Class 250 were built from then Depression stimulus money.

    The article I wrote was rejected by USNI. I’ve put the revised version (with notes and all) here:

    • I think we need to get our desires on the table as quickly as possible rather than waiting until we assume the money might be available. Like the good XO who has a wish list available for when near the end of the fiscal year money becomes available. We certainly have plenty of reason for needing these ships sooner rather than later.

  3. I presume the time line outlined is based on assumptions about how much money is going to be available when.

    Even so, I have a sneaking suspicion, at least part of the reason for this slow conservative approach is because we are “gun shy” after the Deepwater disaster. The real problem with Deepwater was that we abdicated our responsibility by hiring contractor who had their own agendas to tell us what we needed and the resulting structure was non-competitive.

    Clearly, if the money was available we could cut two to four years off this schedule.

    • The service has been “gun shy” about vessel construction since July 1791 when the cutter Massachusetts was launched over budget and past time.

      The rationale for going over budget was because Collector of Customs claimed a larger vessel was needed “needing a larger vessel “to stand the trials of eastern navigation,” unlike the weather on the southern stations. He claimed the weather was the primary factor and the North East needed it. Massachusetts came out too wide and main sails too low that made her too slow and very “wet.” Besides, she spent her first winter iced in near Rainsford in Boston Bay. In the mean time, a much smaller cutter sailed from Portsmouth, NH.

      So poorly designed and built they replaced her with Massachusetts II in 1792.
      Don’t forget the Hunter Wheel cutters. Most of them were altered before they first sailed.

      This has been going on for a long time.

  4. $ 535,000,000 for the fifth cutter in the NSC series. That’s the amount in this FY 11 budget coming due on 1 Oct 2010. Not sure how it’s divided, but the lion’s share must go to Ingalls yard, with some to Lockheed Martin for Combat System software, some to the Navy for various systems, and some for long lead time items like engines, generators, gears, and maybe guns, and the larger radars.

    The $ 535 million figure has been in lots of articles including a February 2010 issue of Navy Times.

    Here’s a question for you. What’s the status of the fourth cutter in the NSC program ? Is it under construction ? I saw pictures of the third NSC cutter when Michelle Obama broke champaign on it last month. Thanks.

  5. Reportedly these are the names:

    WMSL 750 Bertholf

    WMSL 751 Waesche
WMSL 752 Stratton
WMSL 753 Hamilton
WMSL 754 James
WMSL 755 Stone

    WMSL 756 Midgett
WMSL 757 Kimball

    All I know about Hamilton is that it is funded. Haven’t heard that the keel has been laid. Looks like they are only funding one a year and not starting the OPCs until the National Security Cutters are finished.

  6. I had not seen the names. I wonder why historians have not been consulted. It appears the naming board is bound in ignorance and as an acquaintance of mine noted on ignorance, “a chronic core of know nothings who were either unaware or just did not recognize anything that differed from their beliefs.”

    On cutter building, the Coast Guard should read what Jefferson wrote to Gallatin. The repetition of history is amazing in the Coast Guard–then again it is from ignorance.

  7. I came upon an article of Captain Charles F. Shoemaker in the San Francisco Chronicle of 1897.

    When asked, he would always respond to the conditions of the cutter fleet,
    “As conditions now obtain, and much continue until the old vessels are replaced with better, when one of them is ordered upon a cruise of six weeks or two months’ duration it becomes necessary to load it far beyond the danger limit, so that when it puts to sea the decks are fairly awash. This has been the case for years and, with the old type of vessel comprised in the list given [not shown], is the case to-day: and yet, handicapped as it has always been, in the manner shown, the service has never in it history failed to promptly respond and to efficiently meet every call that has been made upon it.”

    [Ed note: The cutters would stack bags of coal anyplace there was space and usually overloaded the cutter. There are photos showing this.]

    He continues in language still used today, “No one of competent judgment will be found who will say that the vessels at any time within twenty years have been fit to perform the duty done in them. The measure of success obtained has been wholly due to the indefatigable labors of the personnel which fills the commissioned ranks of the service and the faithful, trained and disciplined crews.”

    However, he was hopeful for the near future, “Within the last three years Congress has authorized the building of seven new vessels, four of which already have been completed and are in every way suite to the service.” He then noted that five more “cruisers” were requested to replace the “old wooden vessels now almost past repairing.”

    Being able to construct vessels at such a fast pace shows the type of leader Shoemaker was. He was aggressive and considering he had a staff of three officers and about a dozen civilians he got the work done. Why this man is not on the list of names for cutters is a mystery for me. He dragged the RCS kicking and screaming out of the 19th century thought processes. He created the modern Coast Guard.

    • As Commandant from 1895 to 1905, presume his ships would have included McCulloch and most of those involved in convoy duty during WWI. The ships that followed like Ossippee, Seneca, Tallapoosa, Tampa and Yamacraw also fit the pattern set during his administration, all similar in size to today’s 210s. Those ships did look like miniatures of cruisers of the period.

  8. “He dragged the RCS kicking and screaming out of the 19th century thought processes. He created the modern Coast Guard.”

    Yes Bill Wells, as you amateur, phony “historians” have been educated about numerous times now, he created the modern Coast Guard, a military service out of a civilian agency.

    • There nothing more “phony” as being anonymous.
      However, you statement, as usual, makes no sense. It is I who is doing the educating. Want to try that again?

  9. The Commandant is talking to the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.):

    I found this encouraging: “He (the Commandant) called the Offshore Patrol Cutter his “pet project”, and said he intends to make sure this class of cutters is well on its way in production during his tenure as Commandant. “

  10. The OPCs may potentially be the most important class of large cutters in CG history. We need to get them right, but also I just hope he will speed it up a little.

    • I do not believe that the “most important” tag is correct or all that important. Importance relates to the period built and for what purpose. I could be said the twelve new cutters built around 1810 were equally important because they established newer classes beyond the “pilot” boat classes advocated by Thomas Jefferson.

  11. Bill I have to admit, I was thinking in terms of ships over 1000 tons which pretty well limits it to 1890s and later. They have the potential to be important for because of they projected size of the class, but of course we’ll have to wait and see what they accomplish.

    For the 20th century, I’d say the most important class of large cutters were the 327s but among all the classes 83s, 82s, 95s and 180s all have their claim to fame.

    Were those 12 cutters a class, divided among several classes, or each unique?

  12. The January 1809 Act authorized the President to “procure” twelve vessels. Nothing was said about building. However, Albert Gallatin eluded to new in his letter to the Congress on the subject. However, most were not new. They were chartered or leased vessels with a short life span.

    One, the Potomack, was owned by Frederick Lee who also gained his RCS captain’s commission to boot. Many will remember him for loosing Eagle III on Long Island to the Brits.

    There were a few built under this authorization to replace older ones and they became the prototypes for the next 25-30 years. Most did not exceed 130 tons (by law). The idea was to keep them small so they could be manned with small crews and less expensive to sail for longer periods of time than say — the Navy’s frigates which did not sail that long at a time.

    I am trying to run down the one revenue cutter built by the Navy for Newport, R. I. It will be interesting to find out why they and not the Treasury Department built her.

  13. Bill, I have a copy of the American Sailing Navy and while it talks about Revenue Cutters around 1800 and in the 1830s, there is no reference to a ship built between these periods.

  14. Look in Chappelle’s History of American Sailing Ships. However, Chappelle did not have the advantage of present era sources and missed the mark on some.

    Don Canney’s book provides an outline form but he used a number of sources such as H. D. Smith, Irving King, and Stephen Evans. The latter two followed Smith’s work. Nevertheless, there are incorrect statements. As I go along, I put notes in the book.

    One problem with Coast Guard history is that few question what work was done before. Of course, this supposes the Coast Guard wants to question.

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