Potential Contract Could Mean 700 New Jobs

BAY COUNTY Eastern's owner and management are setting their sights on a huge contract that could keep the company busy for decades.

Eastern is one of 3 firms competing for a multi-billion dollar contract to build the next generation of coast guard cutters.

Company officials are in the initial stages of designing the prototype.

The Eastern Shipbuilding Group builds and launches as many as a dozen ships of large size each year.

Most are supply vessels for companies that service offshore oil drilling platforms.

But the Bay County-based company is now in the running to build ships with a completely different mission.

Eastern and 2 other shipbuilders have received $22 million contracts from the Coast Guard to construct a prototype of a new offshore patrol cutter.

Eastern Shipbuilding President Brian D'Isernia says, "This is tremendous. This construction project could mean tremendous possibilities for Northwest Florida in the way of stable, steady jobs to build these 25 vessels over the course of the next 20 years."

The coast guard specifications call for a vessel that's about 370 feet long.

That's not too much different than the 300 or so foot supply vessels Eastern usually builds, only these ships will have guns.

This is not the first government contract for Eastern.

Several years go they built and launched 2 fire boats for the fire department of New York City.

Company officials are in the early stages of designing the prototype cutter.

The project had been on hold because of 2 other companies that lost out on the bidding.

Eastern Shipbuilding COO Ken Monroe explains, "Two other shipyards decided they didn't appreciate that, that they weren't chosen, so they filed a protest."

The General Accounting Office denied the protest three days ago, so Eastern is back to work.

The prototype should take about 18 months to develop.

If Eastern wins the $10.5 billion contract, it will mean at least 750 new full time jobs.

D'Isernia says, "If we win, you'll hear the celebration all over the country - or all over Bay County, at least."

The 3 finalists will present their prototypes near the end of next year.


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