Fincanteiri Marine Group awaits US Navy talks following icebreaker decision
Following the decision to award VT Halter Marine, a US-based shipbuilder owned by Singapore Technologies (ST) Engineering, the deal to design and build a new fleet of heavy polar icebreakers for the US Coast Guard, one of the losing competitors is awaiting a debrief from the US Navy on the decision.
The US Coast Guard and US Navy, which jointly manage the Polar Security Cutter (PSC) programme, awarded a $746 million contract on 23 April to VT Halter for the lead ship. The contract contains options to build the second and third PSCs, which would push the total value to $1.9 billion.
VT Halter, of Pascagoula, Mississippi, is slated to begin construction of the first PSC in 2021 and deliver it in 2024. The second and third ships would be delivered in 2025 and 2027, respectively.
While the coast guard and navy did not say why they picked VT Halter from among several bidders, the winner noted that it has been working on PSC studies for more than two years.
Asked whether a protest will be filed, a spokesman for Fincantieri Marine Group, one of the losing bidders, said that ‘our first objective is to receive a debrief from the navy to better understand the rationale related to their decision. We believe we had a strong proposal that leveraged the collective expertise of our design partners and a dedicated American workforce to give the US Coast Guard a much-needed, affordable Polar Security Cutter.’
The coast guard says the new 460ft PSC, which must be able to break ice that is up to 21ft thick, is needed to ensure US access to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, which are experiencing increased commerce, military activity, research and tourism. The service’s only operational heavy icebreaker, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, is 43 years old.
‘Against the backdrop of great-power competition, the Polar Security Cutter is key to our nation’s presence in the polar regions,’ coast guard commandant ADM Karl Schultz said.
The coast guard, which also intends to buy three new ‘medium’ polar icebreakers, is developing requirements for those vessels. The service currently has one medium icebreaker, the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, which was commissioned in 2000.
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