Despite COVID-19, Eastern Shipbuilding Lays Keel for USCGC Argus

Published May 5, 2020 2:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

On April 28, Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group held the keel laying ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard’s first in class Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Argus. In keeping with public health measures in the COVID-19 era, the ceremony was performed and recorded without an audience.

“We think today represents a milestone that all those involved in the program can be proud of," said ESG president Joey D’Isernia. "The steel joined here today is unlike any you or I have seen before. This steel has been ravaged by 162 mph winds generated by the third most powerful hurricane to make landfall in this country’s history [Hurricane Michael]. This steel has borne witness to a pandemic that has caused fear and shaken our core. But through all this, it remains sturdy, it remains resilient, and today it will join with other steel to become stronger, more defined, and more resolute. Today is representative of . . . unwavering resolve in the face of adversity for a Coast Guard and a nation that deserves nothing less.”

Argus' sponsor is Capt. Beverly Kelley (USCG, ret'd), who was the first woman to command a U.S. military vessel as the CO of the 95-foot patrol boat USCGC Cape Newagen in 1979. She also became the first woman to command both a medium endurance cutter and a high endurance cutter (USCGC Northland and USCGC Boutwell, respectively).
The OPC is designed to provide a middle-ground capability set between the national security cutter, which patrols the open ocean, and the fast response cutter, which serves closer to shore. The OPC design includes the capability of carrying one helicopter and three over-the-horizon small boats. The vessel is also equipped with a combat system and C4ISR suite.

Eastern won the contract for the series - the Coast Guard's largest ever acquisition program - in September 2016. ESG's bid of $420 million per hull helped it to win out over higher-cost options from two more established military shipbuilders, Bath Ironworks and Bollinger. The contract was modified in October 2019 to account for the impact of Hurricane Michael on ESG's operations and workforce. The current award covers up to four vessels.