PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - The office is now open for business, big business.
“Well, winning the polar security contract is a tremendous opportunity for both VT Halter Marine and the local economy,” said Ronald Baszkowski, CEO of VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula. “It gives an opportunity at Halter Marine to transform itself, recapitalize our workforce, recapitalize our shipbuilding.”
This is a $745 million contract with the U.S. Coast Guard that is allowing VT Halter to expand its Pascagoula shipyard and add 900 employees, and they will be building a ship like none other.
“VT Halter Marine has made vessels as large as, as heavy as the Polar Security Cutter, but it has never been as dense or as complicated and under the demands of operating in such as an extreme environment as the Arctic and the Antarctic,” Baszkowski said.
Wednesday’s ceremony formally opened the Coast Guard residency office that will oversee construction of the new Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter being built at the Pascagoula shipyard.
Capt. Timothy Newton is commanding officer for the project.
“The Coast Guard’s missions are expanding on both poles and as the maritime traffic and economic traffic increases in the Arctic, we need a presence up there as well year round,” he said. “And the Polar Security Cutter will be that presence."
Newton said it’s time for a new ship.
“The Coast Guard’s current heavy ice breakers are over 40 years old and beyond the end of their service life, although their heroic crews continue to maintain Polar Star so that she can accomplish her mission to McMurdo,” he said. “It’s been a long haul in order to get the money the political will, the national will to see this as a priority and now that we’ve done that, we’re committed to doing a good job.”
The new icebreaker will be the first of six planned icebreakers the Coast Guard needs to meet its missions in the high latitudes.
Construction will begin January 2021 and is expected to be complete in 2024.