Deepwater project starts rolling
The decommissioning is only temporary. During the next nine months, the vessel will undergo extensive modifications. It will reemerge as a larger 123-foot cutter with enhanced capabilities in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and reconnaissance (C4ISR).
Bollinger and Halter Marine, Inc of Gulfport, Miss., formed HBJV, a joint venture which is a sub-contractor to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in the construction of new cutters and the modification and lengthening of others.
VT Halter Marine, a subsidiary of Singapore's ST Engineering whose U.S. unit recently purchased the shipyard assets of Halter Marine, has a preliminary agreement with Bollinger to acquire Halter's share in the Joint Venture.
MATAGORDA is the first of 49 Island Class cutters built by Bollinger between 1984 and 1991 that will undergo identical changes. When the modernization program is fully underway, Bollinger expects five of the cutters to be under simultaneous retrofit, with one vessel being returned to the fleet every six weeks or approximately seven cutters each year.
VT Halter will construct new superstructure units for the cutters at its shipyard in Pascagoula and transport them to Bollinger's Lockport shipyard where they will be incorporated into each cutter.
When completed at Bollinger, the superstructures, or "houses," will include much of the C4ISR equipment, more staterooms to accommodate mixed gender crews, and a ship's office including space to handle medical emergencies.
Total value of the 110 retrofit contract to Bollinger is expected to be approximately $200 million over the contract life. The project will involve about 100 people at Bollinger's new construction shipyard in Lockport, with the possible addition of up to 25 administrative, technical and production personnel.
The Halter-Bollinger JV is a sub-contractor to a joint venture between Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. called Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS). It was designed as a single point of accountability for the contract activities of the $17 billion DEEPWATER program. ICGS will manage about 100 suppliers in 32 states and four international partners who will provide everything from new administrative systems to new and upgraded ships and boats, airplanes and helicopters. The ICGS contract does not include smaller rescue and patrol boats, buoy tenders, workboats, icebreakers or shore side facilities.
The Halter Bollinger Joint Venture (HBJV) is a sub-contractor to Northrop Grumman Ship Systems for the surface portion of the Deepwater program. HBJV is responsible for the conversion, modifications and new construction of the cutters under 200-feet in length. Within the existing (legacy) fleet of U.S.C.G. Deepwater cutters, this responsibility includes the 110-foot Island Class cutters, which were built at Bollinger Lockport from 1984-1991. There are three classes of these patrol boats and they are currently stationed from Puerto Rico to Guam and from Alaska to Key West.
Each of the cutters will be brought to the Bollinger Lockport facility for a major conversion and to extend the service life of the vessel. The cutter's exterior shell plate will be sand blasted and a full ultrasonic survey (over 2,000 shots on the 110-foot cutter) will be performed. Any area where the steel hull has 10% or more corrosion or wastage from the original construction will be replaced. Those areas of the hull structure that have proven to be difficult to maintain, such as the forepeak, will be modified to make them inaccessible voids to minimize the future maintenance demands on the cutter's crew.
The transom will be removed and a 13-foot extension will be added to the stern of the cutter to allow for the addition of the proven stern launch and recovery system for the cutter's rigid inflatable boat (RIB). The existing crane launched 5-meter RIB will be replaced with a 7-meter Zodiac RIB that will be diesel powered, capable of operating in heavier sea states and with a greater operating range.
The entire superstructure will be removed and replaced with a new arrangement that will significantly improve crew comfort. Five two-person staterooms will be accommodated on the main deck, which will allow the class to have a mixed gender crew (a long term goal of the Coast Guard). This area will also provide a ship's office so the crew can perform routing administrative functions while on patrol which will reduce the inport workload. The office will also have an emergency triage station improving the cutter's ability to provide medical assistance to search and rescue (SAR) victims or crewmembers. The new superstructure will be constructed by VT Halter and transported to Bollinger's Lockport shipyard for incorporation into the cutter.
The existing bridge will be replaced with an ergonomically designed command and control station that will improve watch stander efficiency. The bridge will have 360-degree visibility and ample space to accommodate additional watchstanders during periods of demanding operations such as search and rescue and illegal drug interdiction.
With the new berthing on the main deck, the existing noisy berthing area on the second deck aft, will be converted to a workshop for underway repairs for main diesel engines and auxiliary plant. This space will also accommodate additional cold and dry storage, which increase the cutters' endurance.
The cutter's electronic suite will be upgraded to "state of the art" including the ability to display a common operating picture of the entire theater of operations and the sharing of surveillance and recognizance information from other Coast Guard assets. The communications system will include not only new voice, but data and video transmission and reception capabilities that will improve the cutter's operational effectiveness.