PASCAGOULA, Mississippi (LOG News Service)—A Mississippi shipyard won a $746 million contract April 23 to design and build the first of what could be three heavy polar icebreakers for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command awarded the contract to VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, choosing Halter’s bid over two other finalists. Halter Senior Vice President Robert Socha said the award means the shipyard will hire up to 450 more employees, on top of the 400 it’s already adding to build four barracks barges for the U.S. Navy.
The Navy and the Coast Guard will jointly oversee design of the ship for expected delivery in 2024. The contract includes options for two more heavy icebreakers, which would bring its overall value to $1.94 billion.
The Coast Guard is calling the class of ships polar security cutters, an echo of the national security cutters that nearby Ingalls Shipbuilding has been constructing. The unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said it would like to have up to six icebreakers, including three medium ones, saying it needs to compete with Russian and Chinese icebreakers.
The ships would replace the two icebreakers currently operated by the Coast Guard, the heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star and medium icebreaker USCGC Healy. Polar Star entered service in 1976, while Healy was commissioned in 1999.
“This contract award marks an important step towards building the nation’s full complement of six polar icebreakers to meet the unique mission demands that have emerged from increased commerce, tourism, research, and international activities in the Arctic and Antarctic,” Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant, said.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who oversees the Coast Guard as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “The ships we build in Mississippi will help close the gap in our polar defense and ensure American mariners cannot be denied access to the Arctic region by our adversaries.”
The government of Singapore, through its Temasek Holdings investment firm, owns 51 percent of Singapore Technologies Engineering; that company owns Halter.