Possible New Ships at a Bargain Price

Following a change of government, Trinidad and Tobago is attempting to renege on a 150M pound (US$237.8 M) contract for the purchase of three 90Meter (297ft) Offshore Patrol Vessels built by BAE in Britain. The contract included training the crews and five years of support. Two of the three ships have already completed sea trials and the third has been launched.

Some additional information on the contract, released upon completion of the sea trials of the second ship, is here.

Photos of the second ship are here (I think the speed quoted here is a mistake) and a nice video here:

At 150M UK pounds for three ships, that is less than $80M/ship, compared to over $600M per National Security Cutter and over $40M each for the much smaller Fast Response Cutter.

We are looking at a severe shortage of ships. The 210s will be about 54 years old before they are replaced. Maybe we ought to at least consider taking over the contract. We might even get them at a reduced price. They may not exactly fit the description of a OPC but they are very close and they compare favorably with our existing MECs. 2,000 tons, 25 knots, 5,500 NMi Range, helo deck (but no hanger), three auto cannon, two RHIBs and a crew of only 60.

If we don’t want to keep them permanently, we could use them only until the OPC project is complete and then sell them, but that is still probably at least 15 years away.

34 thoughts on “Possible New Ships at a Bargain Price

  1. The CG did something similar with the SES program. These ships would be a real help if T&T back sout and we can get them for a deal.

    • So Chuck, do you think CG will be looking at this ship as an option to replace the 210’s & 270’s. I think that at the price BAE is selling these ships, they sound like a bargain to snap up. Now I think they should add a flight deck and a hangar for helo’s and UAV’s

      • To make this work will require some political savvy. To get Congress’s OK will probably require some form of offset that would create jobs in the US. This might be in the form of Britain buying American equipment, but I think a particularly appropriate offset would be for BAE to guarantee that they will turn the money around and invest it in the shipbuilding industry in the US. That would be a win/win. Not only do we get inexpensive ships now, it probably means less expensive ships in the future as well. The loss of the Avondale shipyard might be a consideration.

      • So chuck, do you think that this new ship could fill in for a 210, 270. Do you think CG will buy the rights, designs and sell it to a shipyard in America based on the blueprints that CG brought from overseas.

      • What the CG would do, would be only speculation on my part. There has been a lot of interest in this topic judging by the number of hits, but the odds are against any actual movement.

        The ships are superior in virtually all respects to the 210s. They are very similar in capability to the 270 except that they are faster and seem to have a better boat handling arrangement than the RHIB on the fantail on the 270s. They don’t have a hanger or the medium caliber gun, but those would not be a significant disadvantages in many operations and they could possibly be added if we wanted to make the modifications.

        If we took them into the CG we would almost certainly have to make some changes to make sure they were interoperable with other CG units.

        BAE is an international corporation and already has ship yards in the US.

  2. Hi Lads,
    A wee rant I had about this contract can be read at http://www.upperclydeshipping.com/2010/09/scarborough-cg51-rumours.html

    I am just a local lad who loves reading up on his local history and watching a once mighty shipbuilding centre cling on for dear life. This mess was thrust upon the Clyde yards by the previous UK government. All it has done is give our Clydebuilt reputation a battering when in fact it is all the doing of an English shipyard. The first ship is being built in Portsmouth, England. The other two were tranferred to Glasgow, Scotland due to massive delays down in England. The ships will be CG50 (Portsmouth), CG51 (Glasgow) and CG52 (Glasgow). From what I have seen on You Tube and from all the evidence available, CG51 will be ready first. I know this has nothing to do with your bigger picture but what I am saying is if CG51 and CG52 become available then they will be value for money. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNjh4wE_ZJw&feature=related for a video of CG50 going through her first sea trail. CG 51 went sailed through her trials. My video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-X3zMyQAHs

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  4. The BAE ships have some shortcoming when you compare them to the OPC design on the Deepwater website.

    1) No Medium Caliber Gun
    2) No helo deck, at least not one big enouh what what the USCG want to land.
    3) No Helo Hangar
    4) No boat ramp

    These are all “Must have’s” in the USCG’s eyes. These would not be cheap to add these features, especially since you would be doing this as a retrofit. The cost after retrofit might be the same. And I’m sure there are other things the USCG will need to change (combat system, quality of life, etc.).

    • chbrow10, please understand, I’m not recommending we get these instead of new OPCs. I’m recommending we get them because we have the 67 year old Acushnet and 46 year old 210s that won’t start being replaced until 2018. If, as expected, we award contracts in 2014, optimistically we might see the first ship by the end of 2017, then constructing three ships a year, the last of the current generation of MECs will not be replaced until 2025. Frankly I doubt it will be that quick.

      We are 24 years behind in planning for a replacement for the 210s. The current cutter fleet is headed for a train wreck. So don’t compare these ships to what we may have in the distant future, compare them to what we have now.

      I don’t have the specifications, but I think the helo deck is actually at least as large as that on a 210. When you compare proportions you need to remember that this ship is almost 50% longer than a 210.
      210s have no hanger, no medium caliber gun and no boat ramp. 270s have only a rudimentary hanger and no boat ramp. Boat handling arrangements appear to be at least as good as those of the 210s and 270s. We would almost certainly want to replace the installed weapons with Mk 38s, but the three auto-cannon arrangement of the BAE ships is probably actually better for law enforcement than the Medium Caliber gun and no auto-cannon arrangement of the 270s, and it is certainly better than the single Mk 38 mod 1 of the 210s.

      Even after the 25 OPCs are built, I think we will have a place for these ships. We hope to replace 12 WHECs with 8 NSCs and 29 WMECs with 25 OPCs. That plan already puts us down 8 ships. If we find we have no need for them, they will certainly find ready buyers on the Foreign Military Assistance market.

      There may be good reasons for not buying these ships, but they are not the reasons cited. We should send someone to look at them, if for no other reason than as part of the information gathering process fore the OPC.

  5. Mr. Hill,

    You make some good arguments if the USCG is content with simply replacing the current capability inherent in the 210’s. I do not think they will be content to do so, just like the NSC doesn’t simply provide the capability inherent in the Hamilton class. My 2 cents…

    • No, I understand, and people will say well you got those, you don’t need as many OPC, but what happened is that we skipped an entire generation of ships. And when your ships get old and unreliable you actually need more because you have to have extras standing by to cover those that break down. The failures we saw in the Haiti operation are going to get even worse before they get better.

      It’s probably not going to happen. The procurement process is not very agile.

  6. I’m expecting that before they are replaced we will see some catastrophic failures that it will not be economical possible to repair.

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  9. http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/index.php/2010/09/recapitalization-of-the-fleet/

    I think the official CG blogs news on efficiency/availability during the Haiti relief ops, brings into focus the need for reliable ships… advanced capabilities aren’t going to be satisfied in the near term.

    The BAE ships have no real shortcomings if you consider them for what they would be, covering the availability gap. As for helo handling, the would able to handle the medium sized AW139s ordered by the T&T coast guard.

  10. Picking up random ships may not be the best idea. Remember, you have to support these ships. Having one-offs that don’t match the rest of the fleet just means needing to spare two types of parts instead of one. So it may be cheap to procure, but as mentioned above, you would need to retrofit to get the right configuration and support all the systems on these vessels along side those on the OPC.

  11. I would expect some changes would be necessary to make them interoperable with our existing forces, particularly in terms of communications. We would probably also change out the auto-cannon to standard Mk38 mod2s as carried on the Webber class. It would also be good to give them the link system being installed on the Webber class, but frankly those are relatively minor changes.

    Regarding the spare parts question. We already have two unique WMECs, that are getting very old and difficult to support because they stopped making parts for much of their equipment long ago. Lets look at them:

    Acushnet, 66 years old, slow (15.5 knots), no medium caliber gun, no auto cannon, no helicopter, no stern ramp for boat launch, no air search radar.

    Alex Haley, 39 years old, slow (16 knots), no medium caliber gun, no stabilized auto cannon, no helo hanger, no stern ramp for boat launch, no air-search radar, large crew (99).

    Even the standard types include ships that have become difficult to support because of age.

    210s, 41 to 46 years old.
    378s, 38 to 43 years old.

    It appears the 378s are more difficult to maintain than the older 210s because of the larger number of complex systems. They are also much more expensive to operate because of their large crews.

    By contrast the BAE OPVs are relatively simple, with new systems with parts readily available. The Trinidad and Tobago contract included 5 years of maintenance, something like a warranty on your car.

    Again, we ought to take a look. There may be valid reasons for not doing this, but so far I have seen any reason not to at least consider it seriously.

  12. I wonder if the British Gov. could be talked into donating them to Kenya, Somalia or Somaliland? Locally based vessels would be handy for pirate hunting.

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  14. Brazil has taken delivery of the first of the three ships. “Delivery is part of the Brazilian Navy’s $186m deal with BAE for the purchase of three OPVs…In addition to providing three already-built 90m-long, 2,200t OPVs, the deal includes an additional £13m for training and support by BAE with an option to locally build another five OPVs to the Brazilian Navy.”


    $186M for three ships, $62M a piece, each far superior to the 210s.

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