Why It Would Make Sense to Award Two OPC Contracts.

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

The Navy League’s online magazine “Seapower” reports,

 Bollinger Shipyards submitted on March 18 its final proposal to the United States Coast Guard to build Stage 2 of the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter program. If chosen, Bollinger would construct and deliver a total of 11 vessels to the U.S. Coast Guard over the next decade, helping to sustain the Bollinger workforce through 2031.

It is obviously a Bollinger press release, talking about how much good it would do for the local economy, but it does occur to me…

If we have two truly competitive bids, this could be an opportunity to have two shipyards building Offshore Patrol Cutters.

The program is already too long delayed. The phase II contract proposals are likely to be very competitive. In March 2020, contracts for industry studies were awarded to nine different yards.

  • Austal USA of Mobile, AL
  • General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME
  • Bollinger Shipyards Lockport of Lockport, LA
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL
  • Fincantieri Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WS
  • General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD/NASSCO) of San Diego, CA
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS
  • Philly Shipyard of Philadelphia, PA
  • VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, MS

I know at least three yards, Eastern, Huntington Ingalls and Bollinger, and probably more, are submitting proposals for building first a single OPCs with options to build ten more. With Eastern already building the first four, this gives the Coast Guard the opportunity to contract for the remaining 21 ships based on the bids that will be received this year.

We could have the entire program completed by 2032 instead of 2038 and avoid the complication of a probably much less competitive phase III competition to build the last ten ships. Six years earlier completion would also probably allow us to avoid the expense of the life extension program planned for six of the WMEC 270s.

It would cost more in those years but this project really should have been funded ten to twenty years ago. It would be a big plus up for the PC&I budget but only a few percent increase compared to the Coast Guard’s total budget, small compared to the DHS budget and microscopic to the entire federal budget. It would align with the national objective of growing our naval shipbuilding capabilities, and further stimulate the economy. It might not be too hard to get Congressional support.

It would also provide a hedge against a natural disaster further delaying construction.




14 thoughts on “Why It Would Make Sense to Award Two OPC Contracts.

    • The last time they built a major cutter was the 210 program. They built at least four of them.

      The CG yard has gotten money for improvements and they will probably do the life extension programs on six 270s but building OPCs would be a real stretch.

  1. It simply might be a means to circumvent the “Budget Control Act of 2011”, to avoid its cancellation due to running over budget. If the budget of the OPC runs more than 149% of it’s total projected cost, the Budget Control Act will simply cancel the class program. What was ~$441-Mln./ship in 2019, has climbed to ~$457-Mln./ship in 2020 and in 2022 ~$597-Mln. was asked for the construction cost of the fourth OPC…

    • What we have in the budget to procure the ship is very different from what we pay the shipyards, because it pays for supporting infrastructure, personnel, and training costs.

      • Are the Bollinger (and any other competitors) version of the Heritage identical to Easterns? Or are there some differences?

      • They might be different as far as the Steel being used! Very few competing shipyards get their steel from the same steel foundry. All that required is that the steel meets the specifications to construct the ship, but no two foundry processes the exact same type of steel…

  2. It is my understanding that the seperate production of the Littoral Combat Ship in two companies with 2 designs was in part to increase corp technology and local employment use helped get the funding passed
    Compare how Deepwater faced problems trying to unite all ships and equipment into one provider floundered
    Making it all one provider can face difficulty politically

  3. Deepwater Shipyards doesn’t construct ships of anytype! Their solely into Repairing and Conversions of existing ships up to 12,500-tons displacement…

  4. Apparently the Coast Guard does not own Eastern’s detail design for the OPC so the phase II OPCs will be different in detail, but will be statistically similar. (No I don’t like this idea either.)

    • Any idea when exactly that changed? The Burkes and the Perry’s, and most of their predecessors were built by multiple yards.
      Normally in construction, the architect makes the blueprints and specs, and then builders bid based on those plans and specs. But nowdays in Naval construction, it seems like the design and engineering is usually done by the shipbuilder, or at least contracted by the shipbuilder rather than being contracted by the Navy or USCG.

      I think we will need two yards to build the OPC’s, assuming Eastern is able to satisfactorily build the first four. I don’t think they will be able to build the whole class out anywhere near on time and on budget. Two different designs isn’t optimal, but waiting for two more decades for the OPC’s to be built out isn’t really an option either.

      • Easter Shipyards owns three shipyards! Nelson Street Shipyard in Panama City, Florida, Allanton Shipyard in Panama City, Florida and Port St. Joe Shipyard in Port St. Joe, Florida. But not all are the same and are limited by what there derrick cranes are able to lift in steel sheet sections…

  5. I’d rather keep the design the same and up production such that Eastern needs to devote both yards to the build full time. I worry about them getting back to commercial thereafter, but this would seem to be the path to avoid more issues, if they are executing on their current contract well since the hurricane.

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