PASCAGOULA, Miss. — The Government Accountability Office has denied the appeals of two Mississippi shipbuilders over the award of design contracts for U.S. Coast Guard offshore patrol cutters.
VT Halter Marine and Ingalls Shipbuilding protested the February award of contracts to Maine-based Bath Iron Works Corp., Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. and Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC.
Each of the three companies received a preliminary contract design award worth about $22 million. There are plans for 25 of the ships, which could be worth more than $11 billion in contracts.
In a 21-page report made public Monday, the GAO said Ingalls and VT Halter Marine did not demonstrate that the selection process was inequitable and found no merit to their challenges based on technical or past performance evaluations.
Ingalls chose to protest after receiving a debriefing of the offshore patrol cutter evaluation in February, Ingalls spokesman Bill Glenn said at that time.
Ingalls leaders said Monday they were disappointed by the Coast Guard’s decision because the company offered the service “a strong, fully compliant proposal to provide a very capable, cost-effective offshore patrol cutter design.”
VT Halter officials had no immediate comment.
The Coast Guard has said that phase II of the process will narrow the competition further and end with one company chosen to do detailed design and construction of one ship. That contract will include options for 10 more vessels.
The cutter – which will accommodate aircraft and small-boat operations in all weather – is meant to replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of 210-foot and 270-foot medium Endurance Cutters.
The new cutter will feature increased range, more powerful weapons, a larger flight deck and improved command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, the Coast Guard has said.
Eight companies originally vied for the cutter design work during the request for proposals, but three were eliminated last year.
The GAO said in its report that Ingalls and Halter were cut from the competition because of the companies’ past performance on other contracts.
Eastern Shipbuilding was given a “superior” grade, while Bath Iron Works and Bollinger received “satisfactory” marks. Ingalls and VT Halter were both labeled as “marginal.”