Bollinger among finalists for $10.5 billion contract

Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, is one of three finalists for a U.S. Coast Guard contract of about $10.5 billion to design and build 25 offshore patrol cutters, officials announced Tuesday.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said in a written statement that Bollinger will receive $21.95 million to further develop its initial concept design as it competes for the main contract.

Landrieu, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said equal amounts would be awarded to two other finalists — Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc., of Panama City, Fla., and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, of Bath, Maine.

One of the three shipbuilders will be chosen by 2016 to replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of offshore patrol cutters, which range in length from 210 feet to 270 feet and are 30 to 46 years old.

“The new offshore patrol cutters will be the most technologically advanced ships in the Coast Guard’s fleet,” Landrieu said. “Our Lockport shipyard is uniquely equipped to develop and build this new fleet, but more importantly, winning this (concept design) contract means that good-paying, high-skilled jobs will be created right here in Louisiana.”

The senator said the $21.95 million payment from the Coast Guard means Bollinger will employ about 100 engineers and other professionals for the design work over the next two years.

If Bollinger wins the construction contract, Landrieu said, about 2,500 workers will build the new fleet of cutters.

“For over three decades, Bollinger Shipyards has a legacy of producing exceptional Coast Guard cutters on budget and on time,” said Chris Bollinger, president of the shipbuilder. “To be selected in the final competition for this program is both exciting and rewarding.”

As of September, Bollinger held a $1.1 billion Coast Guard contract for production of 24 smaller, fast-response cutters.

Bollinger and its two other competitors for the contract to build the larger patrol cutters were chosen ahead of five other firms for the final design competition. Those five were General Dynamics NASSCO, San Diego, Calif.; Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss.; Marinette Marine, Marinette, Wis.; Vigor Shipyards, Seattle, Wash.; and VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss.

Bollinger’s remaining competitors for the patrol cutter contract are experienced builders of offshore vessels, too.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works was awarded a $2.8 billion contract in June for construction of four destroyers for the U.S. Navy.

Also in June, Eastern Shipbuilding Group was contracted by Hornbeck Offshore Services to build two 302-foot multipurpose supply vessels. At that time, Eastern already held Hornbeck contracts for four 292-foot offshore supply vessels and six 302-foot offshore supply vessels.

Bollinger’s quest for the $10.5 billion Coast Guard contract comes at a time when the shipbuilder and U.S. Department of Justice have been feuding over the firm’s work as a subcontractor in a failed effort to lengthen several Coast Guard vessels.

Those eight 110-foot vessels were declared unusable after their hulls were extended to 123 feet, and the Justice Department filed a civil suit accusing the company of making false claims for payment.

That suit was dismissed in October by U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance, who ruled in New Orleans that the Justice Department lacked evidence to prove its allegation. Government attorneys filed notice Dec. 20 that they will ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Vance’s decision.