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The Coast Guard is planning to buy 10 or 11 new 140-foot harbor tugboats at an estimated total cost of about $70 million to replace its existing fleet of 13 aging 110-foot harbor tugboats for icebreaking duties on the Great Lakes and on the rivers and harbors of the east coast from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay.
GAO believes that the Coast Guard has sufficient justification to replace the 110-foot vessel. Also, the replacement of the five tugs assigned to the Great Lakes with the new 140-foot tug is appropriate. However, the Coast Guard has not justified its plans to put five such vessels in the east coast districts. Use of the existing craft on the east coast does not justify the additional capability of the replacement vessel since east coast operations require a tug more than an icebreaker. The 150-foot vessel seems to be excessive for these districts. Further, to procure these vessels for east coast operations appears to be a waste of both capital investment and operating expense funds. It is difficult to quantify the potential cost of this action in either capital investment or operating expense funds. However, one 1974 design comparison estimated that a 140-foot vessel could cost as much as $1 million more to construct than a 120-foot vessel.
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