PANAMA CITY- Eastern Shipbuilding is known primarily for the ships it builds to service offshore oil and gas platforms. But it could soon be known as the builder of the next generation of coast guard cutters.
“This is a huge deal not just for eastern ship building, but for Bay County and Northwest Florida," said Brian D’isernia, Eastern Shipbuilding president.
Eastern is competing with two other companies to build the Coast Guard's future fleet, smaller than the national security cutters, that will fit new mission requirements.
Coast Guard officials say the new cutters will be the most technologically advanced ships they've ever had.
They’ve awarded Eastern and the other two companies 22-million dollars each to design a prototype of the offshore patrol cutter.
"We will begin that competitive selection process over the next 12 months, ultimately the coast guard will select one manufacturing firm. Hopefully eastern shipbuilding group in panama city to the contract award holder,” said William Harrison, Eastern Shipbuilding attorney.
If the coast guard chooses Eastern's prototype, the local company will receive a 10-billion dollar contract.
"This contract is one that will last about 20 years to build 25 vessels,” said Harrison.
Based on the Coast Guard's specifications D'isernia believes Eastern is the best equipped to do the job.
"It’s crucial to have this work force over the next 20 years because that is going to supplement the current work load that we have, that is keeping our workforce busy now,” said Harrison.
"We hope we're the ultimate winner,” said D'isernia.