2018 hurricane dents US Coast Guard’s offshore patrol cutter program

The US Coast Guard has been forced to adjust the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) detail design and construction contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) after the shipbuilder’s facilities were damaged when Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, made landfall in Panama City on October 10, 2018.

The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security made the decision that will see the coast guard work with ESG to establish new cost and schedule targets under the contract and continue OPC production at ESG’s facilities in Panama City, Florida.

The adjustments are being made for up to the first four hulls.

Additionally, the coast guard intends to release a request for information to gauge industry interest in re-competing the remainder of the OPC program of record.

This decision was made following a comprehensive evaluation of ESG’s request for extraordinary contract relief as a result of Hurricane Michael. The hurricane caused widespread damage to ESG facilities as well as homes and businesses in the area.

ESG began reconstitution efforts immediately following the storm and remains actively engaged in post‐hurricane recovery activities. However, impacts are likely to be felt across the community for the better part of the next decade.

As a result of property damage incurred, a significant impact to ESG’s workforce, and overall regional impacts to infrastructure, ESG requested extraordinary cost and schedule relief from the Coast Guard to support continued performance on the OPC contract.

Production on the first OPC started in January 2019 and new post-hurricane build strategy is being implemented. Long lead-time material to support construction of the second OPC are on order.

The OPC is the Coast Guard’s highest acquisition priority and will provide a capability bridge between the national security cutter, which patrols the open ocean in the most demanding maritime environments, and the fast response cutter, which serves closer to shore.

Also referred to as the Heritage-class, the OPC will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate.

The cutter design includes the capability of carrying an MH-60R or MH-65 helicopter and three operational over the-horizon small boats.

The Coast Guard plans to acquire a total of 25 OPCs.

The first 11 cutters will be named Argus, Chase, Ingham, Pickering, Rush, Icarus, Active, Diligence, Alert, Vigilant and Reliance.

Photo: Illustration; Photo: Eastern Shipbuilding Group