April 24 (UPI) -- VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Miss., received a $745.9 million contract for design and construction of the U.S. Coast Guard's lead Polar Security Cutter.
The contract, announced Tuesday by the Department of Defense, calls the company to handle engineering and detail design for the new class of vessel, as well as for the first ship to be constructed by 2024.
Options on the contract to build two more vessels under the PSC program would bring the total contract to $1.94 billion.
The class was renamed in September from Heavy Polar Ice Breaker to Polar Security Cutter by the Coast Guard to highlight its importance to national security. The icebreakers are the Coast Guard's first new ship for that purpose in over 40 years, and will have search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, environmental response and national defense mission capabilities.
"When we talk about icebreaking capability, that doesn't sell very well to all audiences," Rear Adm. Melvin Bouboulis, said last year at the American Society of Naval Engineers Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium. "We understand that some folks think just it goes and breaks ice, but we've purposely changed the name of that program to Polar Security Cutter because it is really the U.S. presence in the Arctic regions and preserving our national interest and security in those areas."
The Coast Guard notes in a 48-page report released Monday, called the Arctic Strategic Outlook and released on Monday, noted that "dramatic changes in the physical environment" of the Arctic Ocean have allowed China and Russia to become more competitive there. It noted that because of China and Russia's "persistent challenges to the rules-based international order around the globe," there is concern of "similar infringement to the continued peaceful stability of the Arctic region."
The report calls for upgrades of ships, aircraft, communications and unmanned missions in the region.
The PSC program is a Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Coast Guard Level 1 investment, according to the Department of Defense. The initial award calls for engineering and detail design of the PSC ship, as well as the purchase of long lead-time materials and construction.
The ship will be jointly managed by the Coast Guard, the United States' lead agency for assuring surface access in polar regions, and the U.S. Navy.
The majority of VT Halter Marine's work will be performed at its Pascagoula, Miss., facilities. If options for two more ships are exercised, work will continue through November 2027. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., is the contracting agency.