U.S. Coast Guard Trades Rusty Boats for Shiny New Ships

Tuesday was a happy day at the U.S. Coast Guard.


Medium-endurance cutter USCGC Tahoma is visibly rusting. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

For years, the USCG has "made do" with a fleet of rusty medium-endurance cutters for many of its offshore operations. The average age of ships in this fleet is 46 years. But now, efforts are under way to replace and upgrade this fleet with a new class of patrol vessel, the Offshore Patrol Cutter, or OPC.

An all-weather craft, the OPC will feature several improvements over the existing cutter fleet. The new vessels will boast increased range and endurance, more powerful weapons systems, a larger flight deck for helicopter operations, and improved command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment.

Artist's conception of what the new Offshore Patrol Cutter might look like. Source: U.S. Coast Guard.

Tuesday marked the first step in building the Coast Guard's new fleet, as USCG tapped three companies -- General Dynamics' (NYSE: GD  ) Bath Iron Works, Bollinger Shipyards Lockport, and Eastern Shipbuilding Group -- to draw up proposals for building a fleet of as many as 25 new OPCs. Each firm will receive roughly $21 million for its design work in an initial "phase 1" of the project. Eighteen months from now, the Coast Guard will review these designs and pick one firm to proceed to phase 2 -- preparing detailed designs and building the first run of nine to 11 vessels.

So far, one company has already been eliminated from this competition. Huntington Ingalls (NYSE: HII  ) , which did not make the cut for phase 1 of the project, lamented the Coast Guard's decision, noting that "our proposal offered commonality in many systems and construction processes already proven in the National Security Cutter program." That may have been part of Huntington's problem, given the raft of construction delays, cost overruns, and quality concerns that have been raised with the firm's NSC cutters.

What does it mean for investors?
If General Dynamics fails to win the contract 18 months from now, the OPC program will probably fall off investors' radar entirely -- the only other two firms competing being privately held. Still, for now investors can still hope that Huntington's loss will turn out to be General Dynamics' gain. According to Bloomberg, the 25 OPCs that the Coast Guard hopes to build could generate as much as $12 billion in revenues for General Dynamics' team, which includes partners L-3 Communications (NYSE: LLL  ) and Spain's Navantia -- if they win it.

Granted, marine systems represents only General Dynamics' third most profitable division (out of four). The company currently makes a net profit margin of less than 10% on its shipbuilding operations. But in an era of declining defense spending, it's "any port in a storm." Even subpar profits are better than no profits at all.

Investing can be dangerous, but these stocks are built to weather a downturn
Did you know that General Dynamics pays its shareholders a 2.2% dividend yield? Dividend stocks like General Dynamics can make you rich. While they don't garner the notability of high-flying growth stocks, they're also less likely to crash and burn. And over the long term, the compounding effect of their quarterly payouts, as well as their growth, adds up faster than most investors imagine. With this in mind, our analysts identified nine rock-solid dividend stocks in this free report. To discover the identities of these companies before the rest of the market catches on, you can download this valuable free report by simply clicking here now.


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 1:01 PM, buzz112 wrote:

    We have one heavy ice breaker, the Polar Star (1976), and one medium ice breaker the Healy for arctic service. The Russians have 6 nuclear powered ice breakers one of which holds the title of world's largest ice breaker the NS 50 Let Pobedy. It is criminal how Congress has ignored funding the Coast Guard to service the arctic.

Add your comment.

DocumentId: 2840763, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 7/29/2014 6:49:33 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement