A bill needed to continue a long-awaited multi-billion-dollar Coast Guard shipbuilding project in Panama City sailed through a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday.
The bill, which received bipartisan support in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, would let the Coast Guard renegotiate its $10.5 billion contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group to account for higher labor costs and shortages caused by Hurricane Michael. The bill should help the project get back on track after the hurricane to create hundreds of new jobs that are needed more than ever as the area still recovers from the Category 5 storm, some officials say.
According to a Wednesday news release, the committee approved U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Restore Coast Guard Capabilities Act as part of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act of 2019. Rubio’s bill would give the Coast Guard the authority to renegotiate the contract with Eastern Shipbuilding to construct the first series of up to 25 offshore patrol cutters. Without a way to renegotiate the contract, the project could be delayed by years, Rubio’s office warned.