“Bollinger to acquire Halter Marine and STEHMO” –Marine Log/Polar Icebreaker Progam in Trouble?

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

There are two closely related posts here that are significant for the Polar Security Cutter (heavy icebreaker) program. The first is an announcement that Bollinger is acqiring VT Halter and ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore, Inc from Singapore’s STE. The second article is from Forbes by industry observer Craig Hooper, published shortly before the announcement. It reports that, it appears VT Halter underbid the PSC contract and was headed for a disasterous loss. The schedule of delivery has slipped more than once. VT Halter has still not started cutting steel for the ship more than three years after the contract award.

I can’t say this is exactly good news, but solutions begin by recognizing you have a problem. We have had a series of warning signs and at least now there seems to be a change in management to a team with a proven track record.

“Polar Star arrives at homeport after completion of dock work and sea trials during second phase of service life extension project” –CG-9

Photo: Official USCG Polar Star Facebook

The Acquisitons Directorate (CG-9) reports that USCGC Polar Star has returned to Seattle, after at least 146 days away from homeport (April 8 to Sept. 1) following the second phase of a five phase Service Life Extension program at Mare Island Dry Dock, Vallejo, California.

Now that is a long time. I know steps have been taken to mitigate the hardship this time away from homeport has caused, but knowing the ship will be spending months every year in Vallejo, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to change the ships homeport? It might also have allowed the ship to make an Arctic Summer cruise.

After all that is going into remaking this ship, I wonder if perhaps we will keep it around, even after the second Polar Security Cutter is delivered?


Polar Star arrives at homeport after completion of dock work and sea trials during second phase of service life extension project

Sept. 1, 2022 —

Polar Star

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star sits moored in San Francisco following completion of dock trials on Aug. 12, 2022, for the second phase of its service life extension project completed by Mare Island Dry Dock. U.S Coast Guard photo.


Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star has completed sea trials for the second phase of its service life extension project (SLEP), as part of the In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program, and returned to its homeport of Seattle. The remaining contracted production work will be completed by Sept. 30 at the homeport, as well as final testing of the newly installed machinery control systems.

Polar Star commenced the second phase of SLEP work items and recurring maintenance on April 8. Service life extension program work is taking place over a five-year, annually phased production schedule that runs through 2025, and each phase is coordinated to support operational commitments, such as the annual Operation Deep Freeze deployment to Antarctica, and to take advantage of planned maintenance availabilities. During the second phase, all of the galley equipment was recapitalized, reflecting the modern upgrades of commissary equipment available on extended voyage seagoing ships.

In addition, Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division and Coast Guard Yard installed two machinery control systems. The Coast Guard Machinery Control System (CGMCS) recapitalizes the Main Propulsion Control and Monitoring System that was installed during Polar Star’s reactivation in 2013. The CGMCS increases system reliability and operator familiarity, as this newly installed propulsion control system is standard across much of the service’s surface fleet. The new Propulsion Power Distribution System replaced the analog diesel electric propulsion suite that was installed when Polar Star entered service in 1976. The new system features improved reliability as compared to the legacy system and reduces maintenance requirements that previously took approximately 45 days and 1,600 maintenance-hours to complete.

The Polar Star crew will conduct integrated operational testing of both new systems prior to departing for Operation Deep Freeze in 2023. The cutter regularly completes Operation Deep Freeze deployments to resupply McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only active heavy icebreaker. The 399-foot cutter supports nine of the 11 Coast Guard statutory missions. The Coast Guard is investing in a new fleet of polar security cutters (PSC) that will sustain the service’s capabilities to meet mission needs in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The first PSC is on contract for delivery in 2025.

For more information: In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program page and Polar Security Cutter Program page

Keyword

“Coast Guard Struggling to Get Ships Repaired as Navy Expands Use of Smaller Yards” –USNI

Coast Guard Cutter Waesche prepares to refloat from drydock in Seattle, Wash., May 22, 2018. The Waesche is a 418-foot Legend-class National Security Cutter homeported in Alameda, California. US Coast Guard photo.

Reporting on remarks by Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, assistant commandant for engineering and logistics, at the WEST 2020 conference the US Naval Institute News Service reports that the Coast Guard is having difficulties getting its ships into commercial shipyards because of limited capacity in the industry and the increased use of smaller yards by the US Navy. The limited capacity also means that there may be no competition, so the cost of availabilities is going up.

He said the lack of competition is driving up the costs of the contracts they can award, and is leaving others without any interested bidders at all.

The Coast Guard is looking at increasing coordination with the Navy.

“Moore said the Coast Guard has been working with the Navy and industry to squeeze in Coast Guard ships as “filler work between Navy projects” with some success, but he’s hoping to see a more coordinated effort.”

The Navy sees there may be benefits for them in better coordination with the Coast Guard.

“During the same panel discussion, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Commander Vice Adm. Tom Moore said that coordination could help the Navy too – which has been struggling with its industrial base to achieve on-time and on-budget maintenance availabilities.”

Bottom line:

“’The old way that we’ve done it of being very restrictive on dates in and out of the shipyards is not working well for us in terms of not getting competition. So I think to get competition, we have to sort of change the way we do business.’”