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BIW eyes Coast Guard fleet project

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BIW eyes Coast Guard fleet project


Shipyard selected for 3 destroyers

BATH — The week brought news for Bath Iron Works: the possibility of work rebuilding the U.S. Coast Guard fleet, and the allocation of money in the 2010 U.S. Department of Defense budget for the shipyard to build all three DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers.

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen visited BIW on Tuesday with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

"The Coast Guard is in the midst of rebuilding its fleet," Collins said, "and I'm very hopeful that Bath Iron Works could eventually be a good partner for the Coast Guard."

She added that BIW is interested in bidding on a vessel called an offshore patrol cutter. The Coast Guard will be buying 25 to 30 of the vessels.

"We've got a lot of shipbuilding coming up in the Coast Guard," Allen said. "We've got a very old fleet; it's in need of replacement."

The admiral added that "it's vital to me as the commandant of the Coast Guard to be able to understand the capabilities, capacities and the competencies related to the shipbuilding industry and the industrial base. To that end the tour here today was very informative."

Allen noted that much investment in technology and workforce improvement had been made at BIW in recent years.

"It is very heartening to walk around and see the employees working so hard, and the enthusiasm is obvious," he said. "I think that's a tribute to the investments that have been made here, and the leadership at Bath Iron Works."

Unlike other services, Allen said, the Coast Guard does not have a separate acquisition program carried out by the secretary of the Coast Guard, since there is no secretary.

"I'm responsible for the acquisition programs as well," the commandant said, "so I'm kind of a twofer in my visit here."

Collins mentioned that although BIW lost a bid on a previous Coast Guard contract, BIW President Jeff Geiger told the shipyard's visitors that the shipyard "learned a lot about the Coast Guard acquisition process, so I believe that going forward BIW is certainly competitive and that its bid will be welcome."

DDG-1000

Collins' office announced on Monday that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants BIW to build all three DDG-1000 vessels.

"My goal has always been to help ensure a steady work flow at BIW and a strong industrial base for shipbuilding," said Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees. "That is why I worked hard to convince the president and the Navy to include full funding for a third DDG-1000 in the budget, and I am delighted that they have agreed. The Pentagon's preference to have BIW build all three of the DDG-1000's demonstrates confidence in BIW and should also stabilize production costs for the Navy."

BIW is already at work on the first DDG-1000, with more than a dozen units for the vessel having begun fabrication. This first ship is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2013. No schedule is available for the next two deliveries, and those dates will be known if contracts are signed that reflect Gates' proposal, BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini said on Tuesday.

"We see this as a step toward establishing a measure of stability within the shipbuilding industry," DeMartini said, "which is something the Congress, Navy and industry all agree upon."

This proposal has no immediate impact on recent layoffs, DeMartini said, "as the only ship we have under contract remains the DDG 1000 lead ship. However, as is often the case, emergent work – specifically in Pearl Harbor and in Newport News – has enabled us to recall nearly all those who were laid off in the January time frame."

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.