By: Harry Lye, Shepardmedia.com
February 9, 2023
The Floridian shipbuilder sees opportunities in conversions and is protesting a decision by the US Coast Guard to award a significant contract to competitor Austal USA in court.
Speaking to Shephard after he was appointed the new CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding Group last week, Joey D’Isernia said the Florida shipyard was ‘well positioned’ to meet the demands of the US Navy and US Coast Guard (USCG).
In 2016, Eastern was selected to design and build stage 1 of the USCG’s new Heritage-class offshore patrol cutters (OPCs), which D’Isernia said was the largest acquisition programme in the service’s history.
D’Isernia said the US needed to retain an industrial complex of tier-one and two shipyards to support its fleet acquisition plans.
He added: ‘There are obvious concerns about the US military’s readiness should conflict break out in the Pacific and the consolidation of shipyards in the US is raising further concerns about production capacity.’
Eastern, he said, was ‘well-positioned’ to meet the demands of the USN and USCG moving forwards.
‘We built our DCMA and DCAA-certified business systems from the ground up and are one of the only tier 2 shipyards with these certified business systems required to properly manage complex defence contracts.
‘We have a dedicated yard with the capacity, capabilities, and standard of excellence to provide a low-risk solution for the US government’, he explained.
Eastern Shipbuilding is currently working on the first batch of Heritage-class ships for the USCG; however, the company lost an opportunity to build up to 11 more ships to Alabama-based Austal USA last summer.
‘The 360-feet OPCs are state-of-the-art and will provide the majority of offshore presence for the coast guard’s cutter fleet, bridging the capabilities of the 418-foot national security cutters, which patrol the open ocean, and the 154-foot fast response cutters, which serve closer to shore.’ D’Isernia said.
The company lodged a protest with the GAO over the decision and later chose to take its case to court in a bid to overturn the decision.
Commenting on the case, D’Isernia said: ‘Our bid protest is currently before the Court of Federal Claims and going through normal court proceedings.
‘The court sets its own schedule for any rulings or further directions to the parties.’
The contract, awarded on 30 June, is worth an initial $208.26 million to construct the fifth OPC, which will be the first of the class not built at Eastern Shipbuilding’s Panama City yard.
If the USCG exercises all options under the new contract, building the 11 ships would be worth $3.33 billion for Austal USA.
The coast guard revised its OPC acquisition plans in 2019, kicking off a full and open competition to build hulls five to 15 under OPC Stage 2.
The plans came after Hurricane Michael hit the Eastern Shipbuilding facility.
The USCG decision to go with Austal, not Eastern, prompted a flurry of political criticism, particularly from Floridian lawmakers, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who called it ‘short-sighted’.
The new CEO said the yard had successfully positioned itself as a ‘go-to’ for diverse and complex shipbuilding projects on both the government and commercial sides.
D’Isernia explained: ‘That is why it has been our strategy to successfully execute the [OPC] programme while remaining competitive in the commercial shipbuilding arena.
‘We have strategically walled off our government work from our commercial programmes to maintain agility and speed for our commercial clients while meeting the government requirements to build national security assets.’
The company is currently actively bidding for work in targeted sectors leveraging its experience and capabilities in segments such as government, oil, LNG and offshore wind.
D’Isernia added that the shipbuilder saw potential in the industry’s push to convert existing assets and update ageing fleets.
In 2021, the company opened a dedicated yard to offer topside repair and conversion services to government and commercial customers.
D’Isernia took over as CEO and chair of the board as the shipbuilder’s founder Brian D’Isernia retired.
Read the article here.