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VT Halter gets contract to build Coast Guard's new polar security cutter

Apr 23, 2019 05:31 PM

The yet-to-named vessel will be the first of a planned class of six

Polar Star, shown in Antarctica in 2016, is currently the Coast Guard's only heavy icebreaker. The 43-year-old cutter has suffered multiple breakdowns on recent polar voyages.

Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Polar Star, shown in Antarctica in 2016, is currently the Coast Guard's only heavy icebreaker. The 43-year-old cutter has suffered multiple breakdowns on recent polar voyages.

The following is text of a news report from the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI):

(WASHINGTON) — VT Halter Marine Inc. has been awarded a $745 million detailed design and construction contract for the Coast Guard’s next-generation heavy icebreaker, according to a Pentagon contract announcement Tuesday.

According to the announcement, the first-in-class ship will be built at the company’s Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard and is scheduled to deliver in 2024.

“This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $1.9 billion,” read the announcement. The options are for the construction of two additional polar security cutters (PSCs), according to the Coast Guard. If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion.

The yet-to-be-named polar security cutter will be the first of a planned class of six icebreakers – three heavy and three medium – the Coast Guard says it needs to meet the minimum requirements for the U.S. mission in the Arctic.

“With the support of the administration and Congress, we plan to build a new fleet of six polar icebreakers – at least three of which must be heavy icebreakers – and we need the first new polar security cutter immediately to meet America’s needs in the Arctic,” read a statement from the service provided to USNI News. “The United States is an Arctic nation with extensive national and global responsibilities. Our role in the Arctic is growing. Diminishing Arctic sea ice is expanding access to the region and attracting attention from both partner and rival states across the globe.”

The contract award follows the release of a request for proposals from the Coast Guard and the Navy last year for the new ships.

The Coast Guard received $655 million in fiscal year 2019 for the first hull and an additional $20 million for the second ship in the class. The service requested $35 million in its the fiscal year 2020 budget for program management costs to keep the line going between new ships.

The development of the polar security cutter is the furthest the Coast Guard has progressed in its long-voiced request to replace its decades-old pair of icebreakers.

Currently, the service has two polar icebreakers, the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), commissioned in 1976, and the medium icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) that was commissioned in 1999.

The service’s new Arctic Strategic Outlook, released this week, stressed the service's need to recapitalize its Arctic ships and aircraft to keep pace with Russian and Chinese icebreaker developments. The Russian has a fleet of 14 icebreakers.

“The Coast Guard cannot meet the challenges of tomorrow’s Arctic with today’s paradigms. Rapid technological advancements within the maritime industry, combined with robust investments by strategic competitors, have raised the stakes,” reads the document. “The service must take this opportunity to leverage transformative technology and lead the employment of innovative policies to solve complex problems.”

The development of the design will be jointly overseen by the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command and the Coast Guard.

The following is the complete April 23 contract announcement for the polar security cutter:

VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Miss., is awarded a $745,940,860 fixed-price incentive-firm contract for the detail design and construction of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) polar security cutter (PSC) (formerly the heavy polar icebreaker). The PSC program is a multiple year Department of Homeland Security Level 1 investment and a USCG major system acquisition to acquire up to three multi-mission PSCs to recapitalize the USCG fleet of heavy icebreakers which have exhausted their design service life. The PSC’s mission will be to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime, and national security needs. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $1,942,812,266. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Miss. (61 percent); Metairie, La. (12 percent); New Orleans, La. (12 percent); San Diego, Calif. (4 percent); Mossville, Ill. (4 percent); Mobile, Ala. (2 percent); Boca Raton, Fla. (2 percent); and various other locations (3 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through November 2027. Fiscal 2019 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard); and fiscal 2018 and 2017 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) in the amount of $839,224,287 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with three offers received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-19-C-2210).

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