One of the biggest plums in the military market, the $400 million contract for 180 Coast Guard response boats, was expected to be awarded in 2004. Three finalists for the response boat-medium contract were named in May 2003, each of whom built test prototypes that were delivered by the end of that year. The three finalists are Textron Marine & Land Systems, Kvichak Marine Industries/Marinette Marine, and Ocean Technical Services Inc. (OTECH). All prototypes are slightly less than 45’ overall and all are waterjet powered. The Textron and Kvichak/Marinette boats are monohulls and the OTECH boat is a catamaran.
Following several months of testing in Virginia, the three boats were returned to the builders along with an invoice: The finalists were required to buy them back.
The next step — and one long delayed — was a July 15 deadline for the submission of a production proposal.
And when will the contract be awarded? “I’ll be shocked if we see anything before January,” said Keith Whittemore, president of Kvichak Marine.
A big part of the delay has been the move of the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security, according to one source. It apparently took a long time to educate the new department about the importance and suitability of the high-profile project.
Kvichak is still hopeful of getting part of the job, of course, but the Seattle-based company has recently secured other military contracts. “We just signed a contract to build 10 40-foot jet boats for the Navy preposition force,” said Whittemore. “It’s called the MPF project. It used to be called the LCMA replacement project.”
The aluminum boats with bow ramps will be powered by Cummins engines and Hamilton waterjets. They will be deployed from ships to carry troops and equipment to the beach. Kvichak is also building a pair of 80’ aluminum catamarans for the Navy Seals’ logistical support. — B. Buls