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SAFE Boats loses out — Coast Guard chooses Louisiana competitor for big buy

A U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, made by Bremerton based Safe Boats International, escorts the USS John C. Stennis as she departs local waters for the Middle East. The Coast Guard announced the selection of competitor to provide replacements for the Coast Guard fleet of response boats. - Greg Skinner/staff photo
A U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, made by Bremerton based Safe Boats International, escorts the USS John C. Stennis as she departs local waters for the Middle East. The Coast Guard announced the selection of competitor to provide replacements for the Coast Guard fleet of response boats.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/staff photo

The Coast Guard has passed up SAFE Boats International, a Port Orchard firm, for a $180,100,000 contract to replace the force’s workhorse small boats.

According to materials posted on the Coast Guard website, the contract to replace the Response Boat-Small was awarded to Louisiana firm Metal Shark Aluminum Boats. The Coast Guard called the purchase “one of the largest boat buys of its type” for the agency.

The original fleet of Response Boats-Small, or RBS’s, was purchased by the Coast Guard under an emergency directorate after Sept. 11. According to the Coast Guard website, the vessels are used widely on waterways, ports and coastal areas.

Locally the craft are used in security zones around Washington State Ferries, large cruise ships and military ships moving through Puget Sound.

SAFE Boats spokesman Jason Solomon refused to comment on the loss of the $180 million or its effect on the company.

Port of Bremerton spokeswoman Chris Case said that negotiations between SAFE Boats and the port regarding a planned multimillion dollar expansion in support of the firm were still underway as of Tuesday.

SAFE Boats did not mention scaling down the expansion, Case said.

The final decision on who would replace the existing fleet of work boats came after a year-long process. After soliciting proposals in late 2010, the Coast Guard in early 2011 announced the purchase of one vessel from each company for testing and comparison.

According to the Coast Guard’s award announcement, the contract is for an initial purchase of 38 boats, with the option to purchase as many as 500. Of those, 470 would go to the Coast Guard, 20 to Customs and Border Protection and 10 to the Navy.

The new boats will be similar to the first generation RBS craft, but slightly longer. Under the contract, the replacement vessels are required to be able to reach 40 knots, have a range of 150 nautical miles, be portable in C-130 aircraft and carry up to twelve people with mounts for machine guns.

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