Eastern Shipbuilding Cuts Steel for First Offshore Patrol Cutter
Eastern Shipbuilding Group reports that steel cutting for the first U.S. Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutter, the Argus, began this month at Eastern’s facilities in Panama City, Florida. ESG achieved this milestone even after sustaining damage and interruptions due to Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in living memory.
The cutting of steel marks the start the fabrication and assembly of the cutter’s hull, and ESG is to complete keel laying of the Argus later this year. Additionally, ESG completed the placement of orders for all long lead time materials for the second hull in the series, the cutter Chase. The yard holds the contract for nine vessels, and the Coast Guard may eventually order up to 25.
"Today represents a monumental day and reflects the dedication of our workforce - the ability to overcome and perform even under the most strenuous circumstances," said ESG president Joey D'Isernia in a statement. "ESG families have been dramatically impacted by the storm, and we continue to recover and help rebuild our shipyard and community . . . Hurricane Michael may have left its marks but it only strengthened our resolve to build the most sophisticated, highly capable national assets for the Coast Guard."
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City on October 10 as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm. It caused extensive damage throughout the region, and forced temporary closures at large installations like the U.S. Air Force's Tyndall Air Force Base and the U.S. Navy's surface warfare research center at Panama City. ESG was also "significantly impacted" by the storm, according to D'Isernia, but it bounced back quickly.
After the storm, ESG immediately began the work of taking care of its employees and restoring operations. The shipyard set up daily distribution of meals and goods to employees in need. The firm knew that temporary housing was going to be needed in the short term, so it built a small community on greenfield space near its facilities. The company also created an interest free, deferred-payback loan program for those employees needing financial assistance, and it launched a GoFundMe campaign for additional aid. By early November, 80 percent of its employees had returned to work, and the yard began cutting steel for its biggest contract in early January.