BATH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Senator Susan Collins says she thinks bath iron Works has a good chance of winning a new shipbuilding contract with the I.S. Coast Guard.
BIW was told last week it is one of three finalists to design and build a new generation of offshore cutters for the Coast Guard. That service hopes to build as many as 25 ships in the coming years. Sen. Collins' office reports the estimated total price for those ships is more than $7 billion.
Bath Iron Works is competing for the contract against shipyards in Louisiana and Florida, one of which has reportedly built other vessels for the Coast Guard. Shipyards in the Gulf Coast area have a reputation for being able to build vessels at lower costs than those in the Northeast.
However, union leaders and Senator Collins say they think BIW can compete. Collins says the Bath yard has made significant efficiency improvements in recent years, which are helping the company reduce costs. Collins also said she believes BIW's construction quality is higher than that of the southern shipyards, and says both factors should help the Maine yard compete against those in the south.
Union local president Jay Wadleigh called the Coast Guard contract "extremely important", and said it could provide a stable workload for a number of years.
Bath Iron Works and the other shipyards will spend the next two years completing all the design work for the new cutter. The three yards are being paid to do the work. Once the designs are complete, the Coast Guard will then decide which builder gets the actual construction contract.
Sen. Collins office says that decision is scheduled to be made by late 2016.