TAMPA — Tampa Ship could welcome more than 1,000 new shipbuilding jobs if Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards wins a major contract to build up to six Coast Guard polar icebreakers.
Bollinger could start staffing up at Tampa Ship, which has 62 acres at Port Tampa Bay, as soon as 2020, Bollinger president and CEO Ben Bordelon said in an announcement of Tampa Ship’s selection.
The Coast Guard is looking at building three new heavy icebreakers and three medium-sized icebreakers. Over their 30-year life span, the three heavy vessels would cost an estimated $9.8 billion to build, operate and maintain, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The Coast Guard issued a request for proposal to design and build up to three heavy icebreakers on March 2. The agency anticipates awarding a contract in 2019 and wants delivery of the lead ship, with an estimated cost under $900 million, or about what the Tampa Bay Rays are estimating their Ybor City ballpark would cost, by 2023.
"Just the three heavies alone could keep the facility fully utilized for nearly a decade," Bordelon said. "Should we be awarded the contract for the heavies and the anticipated mediums constructed in Tampa, we could be busy here through 2035."
Add in the needed vendors, subcontractors and suppliers, and the icebreaker contract could translate into 3,500 jobs, Bordelon said.
"Bollinger’s unique facilities in Tampa make it the perfect place for the Coast Guard icebreaker program," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement released through the company.
Currently, the Coast Guard has two icebreakers in operation: the 399-foot Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, and the 420-foot medium icebreaker Healy, commissioned in 2000, both of which have reinforced hulls and specially angled bows. The Polar Star has completed five supply missions to the McMurdo Station scientific research center in Antarctica since 2013, but is not expected to remain in service beyond 2023.
Bollinger, based southwest of New Orleans, is one of five U.S. shipbuilding companies paid $4 million each to examine the main drivers of cost and technology risks in the heavy polar icebreaker program.
The company already is building the Coast Guard’s fast-response cutter fleet at its shipyard in Lockport, La., and has so far delivered 29 vessels, including one named in honor of the late William Trump of St. Petersburg, who lied about his age to join the Coast Guard when he was 17, won a Silver Star for heroism on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion and died in 2009.
"We have built over 150 vessels for the Coast Guard in Louisiana beginning in the early 1980s," Bordelon said. "We anticipate taking our cumulative knowledge of this customer, our expertise in building complex vessels and serial production techniques to Florida and creating an even greater economic engine than we presently have."