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Maine firm in running for Coast Guard work

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Associated Press / May 25, 2008

PORTLAND, Maine - Bath Iron Works hasn't built a Coast Guard ship since the 1930s, but it has made the list of finalists vying to build a fast-response cutter, a contract that could provide stability for workers while developing new markets for the company.

The Coast Guard winnowed the number of applicants this month based on their ability to meet its demands. Because of secrecy surrounding the competitive bidding process, it is unknown how many other competitors made the cut. The winner is to be announced in July.

The contract requires 12 cutters to be delivered by 2012, with options for up to 34 altogether, said Laura Williams, Coast Guard spokeswoman.

The cutters would help fill an anticipated workload gap for the Bath shipyard while potentially opening the door to the construction of other smaller ships, including the Navy's littoral combat ship, designed to operate in waters near shore, said Jay Korman, a naval analyst with the Avascent Group.

"It could open up a whole new business line for them," Korman said.

Envisioned as the smallest Coast Guard cutters, fast-response cutters will be between 120 and 160 feet long - far smaller than Bath-built destroyers - and have a top speed of more than 30 miles per hour. They're part of the Coast Guard's $24 billion Deepwater modernization program that has been plagued by cost overruns, design flaws, and lax oversight.

The Coast Guard removed Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. as project managers last year, opening the door for Bath Iron Works and others to bid.

The only contractor besides Bath that publicly acknowledged bidding on the fast-response cutter was a consortium comprised of Raytheon Co., VT Halter Marine, and EG&G Technical Services.

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