“Coast Guard awards River Buoy, Inland Construction Tender detail design and construction contract” –CG HQ News Release

Shown above are Coast Guard indicative designs of a river buoy tender, inland construction tender and inland buoy tender.

The news release is below.

Congressional Research Service has an Aug. 30, 2022, two page explanation of the program.

For background, my most recent previous related posts:

“Ohio River Bomb Spree Shows Need For New Coast Guard Waterways Commerce Cutters” –Forbes Nov. 2021

“Coast Guard releases request for information for boats to support waterways commerce cutters” –CG-9 Oct. 2021

“Waterways Commerce Cutter: It’s Time for an Upgrade” MarineLink June 2021

Update, “Coast Guard Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS Feb. 2021

There are others: https://chuckhillscgblog.net/?s=waterways+commerce+cutter&submit=Search

 News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters


Coast Guard awards River Buoy, Inland Construction Tender detail design and construction contract

WASHINGTON – On Oct. 5, 2022, the Coast Guard Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) Program awarded Birdon America, Inc. of Denver, Colo., an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity firm fixed price contract with economic price adjustments for the detail design and construction of its river buoy and inland construction tenders.

The initial award is worth $28.49 million. The contract includes options for the construction of a total of 16 river buoy tenders and 11 inland construction tenders.

If all contract line items are exercised, the total contract value is estimated at $1.19 billion.

River buoy tenders service short-range aids to navigation (ATON) on the western rivers. They set, relocate and recover buoys to mark the navigable channel in the rivers as the water level changes and also establish and maintain fixed aids, lights and day beacons.

Inland construction tenders construct, repair and maintain fixed ATON within inland waterways along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. They are the only Coast Guard platform with the capability to drive and remove piles, erect towers and effect major structural changes. 

The Coast Guard has a statutory mission to develop, establish and maintain maritime ATON.  WCCs will perform a critical part of this mission on the inland waterways and western rivers. The WCCs will replace the legacy inland tender fleet, which has an average vessel age of over 57 years and includes ships still in service at 78 years old. This contract award ensures the Coast Guard will continue to meet its vital missions throughout the Marine Transportation System.

“This contract award is an important milestone for the new inland fleet that will improve our operational capability on the Western Rivers, and Inland Waterways” said Adm. Linda Fagan, Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.

The new WCCs will have greater endurance, speed and deck load capacity than their predecessors. The ships will also feature improved habitability and will accommodate mixed-gender crews.

More information on the WCC: Waterways Commerce Cutter program page

“Blount Boats delivers icebreaking buoy tender” –Marine Log

Marine Log reports,

Delivered earlier this year by the Blount Boats shipyard in Warren, R.I., an icebreaking buoy tender ordered in July 2020, the M/V Eddie Somers, is now in service with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Homeported at Somers Cove Marina port at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Md., the 94 x 27 foot vessel will replace the M/V J. Milliard Tawes after nearly 50 years’ service.

There is a better description of the vessel in a 2020 post reporting the construction contract award.

I found this particularly interesting,

Under a cooperative agreement with Virginia and the U.S. Coast Guard, the M/V Somers will also provide this service to Tangier Island in Virginia when requested. During heavy ice seasons, all food, fuel, medicine, and emergency transport going to and from the islands are supplied by the vessel.

Frequently there is talk of the Coast Guard shedding missions. Domestic icebreaking is perhaps one of those that might be considered. Here is a state taking responsibility for at least some elements of domestic icebreaking and at least shallow water buoy tending. Domestic icebreaking might be seen as a Federal subsidy for areas that experience icing.

The Coast Guard, as the agent of domestic icebreaking, makes the most sense when it can be done by vessels that have other missions when icebreaking is not required. Federal funding of domestic icebreaking makes the most sense when it facilitates interstate and international commerce. Like this particular vessel, Coast Guard vessels frequently combine both domestic icebreaking and buoytending capabilities as in the 225 foot buoy tenders and USCGC Mackinaw.

Looking at this vessel, it looks a lot like our proposed Waterways Commerce Cutters. Makes me wonder if an icebreaking capability for at least some of them might be a good idea, if that is not already in the plan?

Thanks to a reader for bringing this to my attention. 

“Ohio River Bomb Spree Shows Need For New Coast Guard Waterways Commerce Cutters” –Forbes

USCGC Smilax (WLIC-315)

Craig Hooper has another pro-Coast Guard post in Forbes.

It talks about a domestic terrorism incident as a justification for the Waterways Commerce Cutter program.

The program already seems to be progressing well with essentially no opposition.

The article goes a bit beyond advocating for the program as it exists now.

“—the emerging threat of domestic terrorism suggests that these vessels may need to enhance their disaster response capabilities faster than the Coast Guard expects. Better communications, better situational awareness resources and better resources to keep crew safe may be quite useful over the three or four decades. Fittings for chemical sensors, extra protective gear storage, unmanned platform capabilities, and better decontamination resources all ensure these Cutters will be viable over the long-term.”

Take a look. I am not enthusiastic about Hooper’s suggested upgrades, but I have a lot of respect for his opinion, so would not dismiss them out of hand.

“Coast Guard releases draft request for proposal for river buoy and inland construction tenders” –CG-9

USCGC Smilax (WLIC-315)

The Acquisition Directorate reports they have released a draft request for proposal (RFP) to “design a River Buoy Tender (WLR) and an Inland Construction Tender (WLIC) – two variants of one design – and build 16 WLRs and 11 WLICs.” I have duplicated their post below:

The Coast Guard released a draft request for proposal (RFP) July 29, 2020, for detailed design and construction of the river buoy and inland construction tenders as part of its Waterways Commerce Cutter acquisition program. The draft RFP is available here.

The deadline to submit feedback on the draft RFP is Sept. 18, 2020.

The Coast Guard is recapitalizing its 35 river, construction and inland buoy tenders, which collectively average more than 55 years in service. The fleet is responsible for maintaining more than 28,200 marine aids throughout 12,000 miles of inland waterways, facilitating the movement of 630 million tons of cargo annually.

There are currently 18 river buoy tenders and 13 construction tenders in the inland tender fleet. Based on extensive analysis of mission needs, the Coast Guard plans to replace these ships with newly designed river buoy tenders and construction tenders that have greater endurance, speed and deck load capacity than their predecessors. The Coast Guard plans to acquire these two variants on the same contract due to major design commonality including hull form, deck layout and standardized equipment. The inland buoy tender replacements will be acquired separately.

Replacing the aging fleet is critical to sustaining the overall safety of the U.S. Marine Transportation System, which accounts for $5.4 trillion of economic activity annually and sustains approximately 30.7 million jobs.

For more information: Waterways Commerce Cutter program page. Additional resources and previous industry engagement materials can be located under the “Resources” tab at the bottom of the page.

“Coast Guard releases draft waterways commerce cutter specifications, plans industry engagement” –CG-9

USCGC Smilax (WLIC-315)

This from CG-9:

The Coast Guard released draft specifications for the river buoy tender and inland construction tender variants of the waterways commerce cutter (WCC) in a special notice Oct. 15.

The WCC program also plans to exhibit and present updates at the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans Dec. 4-6. The program will have a booth and provide information about its mission needs, status, and desired fielding schedule during a presentation Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. to noon CST. Additionally, a team of program members will be available to meet one-on-one with interested ship construction and design teams consisting of shipyards with design capability or ship designers teamed with shipbuilders. The deadline to request a meeting is Nov. 11.

Both the draft specifications and the one-on-one meeting request link are available here.

For more information: Waterways Commerce Cutter program page

Following the link, there is a little information about the conceptual design, and the way the Coast Guard intends to interface with the workboat construction community that I have reproduced below. Distribution of the specs themselves are limited. 

This special notice is issued for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) program office. General questions may be directed to wcc@uscg.mil.

DRAFT SPECIFICATION: In continuance of its plan to replace the capabilities of 13 Inland Construction Tenders (WLIC) and 18 River Buoy Tenders (WLR), the USCG is releasing a draft specification with drawings and project peculiar documents (PPD). All of the above are current versions and subject to change. The draft specification is for two mono-hull ship variants with a common after-body as the materiel solutions to replace the WLIC and WLR. (emphasis applied–Chuck) While the draft specification is unclassified, parties interested in viewing it must request explicit access via the Federal Business Opportunities web site. The USCG Contracting Officer will decide all requests for access.

MEETINGS WITH SHIPBUILDERS AND SHIP DESIGNERS: The WCC Program plans to attend the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans, LA December 4-6, 2019. USCG representatives will take this opportunity to meet one-on-one with shipbuilder and ship design teams (i.e., shipyards with design capability or ship designers teamed with shipyards). To request a meeting during the International WorkBoat Show, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your internet browser. The deadline to request a meeting is November 11, 2019


Shipbuilder and ship design teams not able to meet during the International WorkBoat Show may request a phone conference or meeting in Washington, DC by emailing wcc@uscg.mil. Because of resource constraints, the USCG will meet one-on-one only with shipyards with design capability or ship designers teamed with shipyards.

The WCC program will also staff a booth during the International WorkBoat Show and will provide information about its mission needs, status, and desired fielding schedule during a presentation on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. CT. The presentation will include time for questions. All information provided in the presentation (including questions and answers) and booth handouts will be made available on the program’s website: