Australian shipbuilder Austal Limited has announced that Austal USA has been awarded a contract for the design and construction of up to 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard potentially valued at $3.3 billion.
The first vessel has been contracted by the US Coast Guard, with options for a further 10 vessels.
Construction is expected to commence in 2023, taking place Austal USA’s new steel shipbuilding facility in Mobile, Alabama. The initial award is valued at $208 million.
The contract is related to stage 2 of the Coast Guard’s offshore patrol cutter acquisition program, covering OPCs 5 to 15. The first four OPCs in the program are being designed and built by Eastern Shipbuilding.
“The offshore patrol cutter is absolutely vital to Coast Guard mission excellence as we recapitalize our legacy medium endurance cutters, some of which are more than 50 years old,” said Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard. “The OPCs are the ships our crews need to protect our national security, maritime safety and economic prosperity. I look forward to the new cutters joining our fleet.”
Austal Limited CEO Paddy Gregg said the new contract was the third steel shipbuilding program awarded to Austal USA, acknowledged the expanded capability of the shipyard following a $100 investment.
“The United States Coast Guard’s new Offshore Patrol Cutters are an outstanding opportunity for Austal USA to further demonstrate the shipyard’s new steel shipbuilding capability; based on years of proven construction experience through the delivery of the LCS and EPF programs for the United States Navy,” said Gregg.
In 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office identified ‘significant risk’ to the OPC program after 2018’s Hurricane Michael, a category 5 hurricane, severly damaged Eastern Shipbuilding’s shipyard where the first nine OPCs were set to be built. As a result of the hurricane, the Coast Guard divided the program into two stages and revised its cost and schedule goals.
In total, the Coast Guard has committed to spend over $12 billion to acquire a fleet of 25 OPCs to replace its aging fleet Medium Endurance Cutters.
The Coast Guard’s 110-meter steel OPCs have range of 10,200 nautical miles at 14 knots and a 60-day endurance period, capable of conducting a variety of missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue operations.
In addition to the OPCs, Austal USA is executing a myriad of shipbuilding programs for the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, including continued construction on the aluminum Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF) programs, the steel hulled Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue (T-ATS) ships, and Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium under contract for the U.S. Navy.
“This contract award is the result of our continued investment in our people and our facilities. We are thrilled for the opportunities this will bring to our local community and our tremendous supplier base, as this program will provide our shipbuilding team the stability for continued growth,” said Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh.