Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), Panama City, Fla., announced recently that the Coast Guard has exercised the option to build the lead 360'x54' offshore patrol cutter (OPC) Argus (WMSM-915). Delivery of the Argus is scheduled for 2021. The additional OPCs are expected to have far shorter build times than the three years it will take for the lead OPC.

The Coast Guard also exercised the option for long lead time materials for the OPC Chase (WMSM-916). The action comes after two major reviews in July and August, specifically the final critical design review (FCDR) and production readiness review (PRR). The value of the two options comes to $317.5 million.

With a draft of 17', the OPC is designed to conduct multiple missions in support of the U.S.’s maritime security and border protection. The cutters will provide a capability bridge between the national security cutter, which patrols the open ocean in the most demanding maritime environments, and the fast response cutter, which serves closer to shore. The new design includes the capability of carrying an MH-60R or MH-65 helicopter and three operational over-the-horizon (OTH) small boats.

“We’re just excited to get started. You know this has been a big deal for the community,” Eastern’s president Joey D’Isernia told Panama City television station WJHG. “This job will employ about 900 to 1,000 at peak production  and that will translate to about 3,000 indirect employees.”

Firepower will include a BAE Mk 110 57mm gun and gunfire control system, BAE Mk 98 model 2 25mm gun, two M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns mounted on remote operated small arms mounts, and four crew served M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns. The cutters will also be equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system and C4ISR suite that will enhance capabilities to execute the service’s missions.

“We’re hiring shipfitters, welders, pipefitters, pipe welders, things of that nature,” D’Isernia told WJHG. “If you’re not a skilled craftsman and you want to join the team and be part of this project, in a long-term project, you can come in and we will pay to train you.”

Main propulsion will come from twin Fairbanks Morse-MAN 16V28/33D STC diesel engines, producing 9,760 hp at 1,000 rpm each, connected to Rolls-Royce 5-bladed controllable pitch props, giving the OPC a running speed of 22 knots. The cutters will have a 60-day endurance and a range of 9,500 nautical miles at 14 knots.

In September 2016, the Coast Guard exercised the option for detail design on ESG’s OPC contract. The shipyard will construct the patrol boats to replace the medium endurance cutters currently in service. The contract includes options for production of up to nine OPCs with options for two additional boats. The Coast Guard plans to acquire a total of 25 offshore patrol cutters.

“If the Coast Guard exercises all 25 options, this job will last for 20 years,” D’Isernia told WJHG.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.