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Birdon America wins Waterways Commerce Cutters contract

The WCC contract consists of two separate but related vessel designs: the River Buoy Tender (WLR) and the Inland Construction Tender (WLIC)

Posted on October 11, 2022

The Coast Guard has awarded Denver-based Birdon America, Inc. a subsidiary of Australia’s Birdon Pty Ltd, a contract for the detail design and construction of its Waterways Commerce Cutters (WCC) program’s river buoy and inland construction tenders. The initial award is worth $28.49 million. The contract includes options for the construction of a total of 16 river buoy tenders and 11 inland construction tenders. If all contract line items are exercised, the total contract value is estimated at $1.19 billion.

Birdon says it has invested in developing and refining a fully compliant, comprehensive, low-risk, and best value solution for the USCG. Pre-award investment included full tank testing and preliminary design approval from the American Bureau of Shipping.

The WCC contract consists of two separate but related vessel designs: the River Buoy Tender (WLR) and the Inland Construction Tender (WLIC).

Both variants are complex, modern, and designed to military standards. The new cutter design is expected to provide up to 11 days of accommodation and habitability for up to 19 crew members.

  • River buoy tenders service short-range aids to navigation (ATON) on the western rivers. They set, relocate and recover buoys to mark the navigable channel in the rivers as the water level changes and also establish and maintain fixed aids, lights and daybeacons.
  • Inland construction tenders construct, repair and maintain fixed ATON within inland waterways along the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. They are the only Coast Guard platform with the capability to drive and remove piles, erect towers and effect major structural changes.

The WCCs will replace the legacy inland tender fleet, which has an average vessel age of over 57 years and includes ships still in service at 78 years old.

“This contract award is an important milestone for the new inland fleet that will improve our operational capability on the western rivers,” said Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.

The new WCCs will have greater endurance, speed and deck load capacity than their predecessors. The ships will also feature improved habitability and will accommodate mixed-gender crews.


Birdon says it is building on its experience and expertise in leading program management, design, manufacture, and support of the USCG and U.S. Army watercraft programs, by teaming with carefully selected partners. Bollinger Shipyards (Bollinger) and Incat Crowther will be key subcontractors to Birdon and share Birdon’s commitment to delivering for the USCG. The entire delivery team will work under Birdon’s integrated, standardized leadership model, which is proven across numerous multiple-site projects in the U.S. and abroad.

Bollinger has a long history building vessels for the USCG, delivering 174 vessels in the last three decades alone. Bollinger will subcontract to Birdon for production of the bare hulls. All of Birdon’s production activities will take place in Lockport, Louisiana.

Birdon has established a successful track record with the U.S. Coast Guard during the last three years through its existing contract for the 47’ Motor Lifeboat Service Life Extension Program.

“We are confident that we represent a low risk, high-performing, and long-term partner for the Coast Guard on the WCC Program. Birdon, and our partners Bollinger and Incat Crowther, look forward to continuing our successful relationship with the Coast Guard for years to come,” said Birdon CEO, Jamie Bruce.

The 27 vessels will be constructed within a 10 year period commencing with an 18 month design finalization period.


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