Master Boat Builders To Construct WCC Superstructures

Birdon America Inc., the Denver, Colo.-based company that in October 2022 was awarded a $1.187 billion contract for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Waterways Commerce Cutter (WCC) program, has announced it has hired Master Boat Builders of Coden, Ala., to build the superstructures for the 27 forthcoming vessels. In all, the WCC contract includes options for 16 river buoy tenders and 11 inland construction tenders.

According to Birdon America, Master Boat Builders will construct the superstructures under a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity subcontract.

“We are excited to announce our partnership with Birdon America and honored to be part of the WCC program team,” said Garrett Rice, president of Master Boat Builders. “This is an important opportunity for our employees as it will create new sustainable jobs and additional shipbuilding capability and capacity in Coden, Ala. We are proud to play a key role in delivering the highest quality cutters to the U.S. Coast Guard.”

First opened in 1979, Master Boat Builders has built and delivered more than 450 vessels over the years, most recently hybrid-powered tugboats and Crowley’s eWolf, the United States’ first electric tugboat.

“For the Waterways Commerce Cutter Program, as with all of our programs, Birdon’s approach is simple: find the best partner with the best solution for the customer,” said Rob Scott, president of Birdon America. “Garrett and the entire Master Boat Builders team are focused on expanding the nation’s shipbuilding capacity and creating purposeful jobs, and we are thrilled to have them on the team.”

This isn’t the first time Master Boat Builders has been tied to the WCC program. After the Coast Guard awarded the WCC program contract to Birdon America, which is a subsidiary of Australia-based Birdon, Master Boat Builders and Bayou La Batre, Ala.-based Steiner Construction Company protested Birdon America’s proposal, including the fact that Birdon America does not own its own shipyard, and the Coast Guard’s evaluation of their proposals. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced in February that it had denied those protests.

According to Birdon America, Bollinger Shipyards, which has construction facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi, will be the subcontractor for the bare hulls of the WCC program. Incat Crowther, another Australian company, which has an office in Lafayette, La., will also be a key subcontractor.

The contract with Master Boat Builders is the second major subcontract announcement from Birdon America for the WCC program. In July, Birdon America announced firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts for design, development, manufacturing and delivery with six companies. Values for those subcontracts will range from $10 million to $50 million. Recipients of that first tranche of subcontracts include Kern Martin Services of Coden, Ala.; Hiller Marine of Mobile, Ala.; Covington, La.-based Techcrane International; Beier Integrated Systems of Gray, La.; LeBlanc Associates of Houma, La.; and Charleston, S.C.-based Cummins.

Birdon America expects to deliver the 27 vessels that comprise the WCC program over a 10-year period. The new cutters, divided into 16 river buoy tenders and 11 inland construction tenders, will each be designed to accommodate a crew of 19 for up to 11 days.

The new vessels will replace the Coast Guard’s current inland tender fleet, which has an average vessel age of 58 years, with some vessels nearing 80 years old.