Austal wins massive $4.3 billion United States patrol boat contract

Perth international shipbuilder Austal has been awarded a massive $4.35 billion contract for the detail design and construction of up to 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC, pictured) for the United States Coast Guard (USCG).

The breakthrough contract justifies Austal’s $100 million expansion of its Mobile, Alabama shipyard to manufacture both steel and aluminium ships, and confirms the company as a key supplier of new vessels to the US Navy.

The first steel hulled vessel has been contracted by the US Coast Guard with construction to begin in 2023, with options for a further 10 vessels.

Ironically the contract was announced on the same day as the Australian defence department notified Austal of a potential fault in the exhaust systems of the Guardian class patrol boats Australia has delivered to Pacific Island nations through the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP).

Defence said in a statement each Pacific nation would decide whether to keep operating the vessels or pause their use.

Defence said: “Other issues have emerged over the past 16 months and have remediation plans in place. This includes cracking in the coupling between the engine and the gearbox, and ventilation in the sick bays.”

However this news is dwarfed by the importance to Austal of the latest contract.

Austal USA is executing a myriad of shipbuilding programs for the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, with construction continuing on the:

  • Aluminium Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)
  • The aluminium Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF)
  • The steel hulled Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue (T-ATS) ships
  • And an Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium under contract for the United States Navy.

Austal Chief Executive Officer Paddy Gregg said the new contract was the third steel shipbuilding program awarded to Austal USA and acknowledged the expanded capability of the shipyard.

“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.

“The Offshore Patrol Cutters are a critical capability in the United States’ homeland security and the Coast Guard’s most important acquisition program, and the Austal USA team is very excited
and proud to be delivering this major shipbuilding program for the USA.”

Although the OPC contract has been awarded in FY2023, the contract award will positively impact the company’s FY2022 EBIT which will be higher than the previously forecast $107 million.

The Coast Guard’s 110 metre steel OPCs provide a capability bridge between the service’s National Security Cutters, that operate in the open ocean, and the smaller, Fast Response Cutters that operate closer to shore.

The new OPCs are capable of conducting a variety of missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue operations.

With a range of 10,200 nautical miles at 14 knots and a 60-day endurance period, each OPC will
be capable of deploying independently, or as part of task groups, and serving as a mobile
command and control platform for surge operations such as hurricane response, mass migration
incidents and other emergency events.

The Cutters will also support Arctic objectives by helping regulate and protect emerging commerce and energy exploration in Alaska.

Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh said: “This contract award is the result of our continued
investment in our people and our facilities.”

Picture: Austal

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