Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) reported that steel cutting for the U.S. Coast Guard’s second offshore patrol cutter (OPC), the future USCGC Chase (WMSM-916), commenced on April 27 at its facilities.
The cutting of steel started the fabrication and assembly of the cutter’s hull, and ESG is to complete keel laying of the vessel in 2021. Contract delivery of the future USCGC Chase is scheduled to occur in 2023.
Additionally, ESG has commenced the placement of orders for long lead time materials (LLTMs) for the third OPC, the future USCGC Ingham (WMSM-917). Production on the first OPC, the future USCGC Argus (WMSM-915), commenced in January 2019 at ESG’s shipyard in Panama City, Florida and the vessel is scheduled to be delivered by 2021.
“Today marks a monumental event and reflects the dedication and resolve of our workforce to execute program milestones on-time. ESG is dedicated to the task of building the most sophisticated, highly capable ships for the Coast Guard. Today’s success is the start of serial production of the OPCs at ESG by our dedicated team of shipbuilders and subcontractors for our customer and partner, the United States Coast Guard. We are excited for what will be a great 2020 for Eastern Shipbuilding Group and Bay County, Florida”, said Joey D’Isernia, President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group.
The Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), also known as the Heritage-class cutter or the Maritime Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM), is a new class of cutters being built as part of the U.S. Coast Guard Integrated Deepwater System program.
The OPCs are the Coast Guard’s highest acquisition priority and will provide a capability bridge between the Legend-class National Security Cutters (NSC), which patrols the open ocean in the most demanding maritime environments, and the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, which serves closer to shore. They will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, commissioned between 1964 and 1991, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate.
The OPC design includes the capability of carrying an MH-60R or MH-65 helicopter and three operational Over The-Horizon small boats. The vessels are also equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system and C4ISR suite that will enhance capabilities to execute the service’s missions.
On September 15, 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard exercised the option for Detail Design on Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s OPC contract. Eastern Shipbuilding Group will construct the Offshore Patrol Cutters to replace the Medium Endurance Cutters currently in service. The contract includes the production of up to four vessels.
On September 15, 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard exercised the Detail Design contract option, worth $110.3 million, to Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida. The contract originally included options for the production of up to nine vessels with a potential total value of $2.38 billion dollars.
It was announced in 2019 that ESG was granted extraordinary relief by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after their shipbuilding facilities sustained significant damages from Hurricane Michael. The Coast Guard then moved forward with an adjustment to the OPC detail design and construction contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group for up to the first four hulls and a follow-on procurement was announced for a total of 25 OPCs (including the first four).
Last month, the Coast Guard announced the award of OPC industry studies contracts to eight shipbuilders on March 20. The eight companies are Austal USA, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW), Bollinger Shipyards, Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM), Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), Philly Shipyard, and VT Halter Marine.