BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works has secured a $21 million contract to perform preliminary design work for the next generation of offshore patrol cutters, the Coast Guard announced Tuesday.

Bath Iron Works, Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, La., and Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Fla., will compete for a contract to build the cutters.

A Coast Guard request for proposals to design and build the cutters drew submissions from eight shipyards, and that field was narrowed to five in September.

“With its skilled workforce and an outstanding record of designing, building, and providing superior life-cycle support for ships, Bath Iron Works is uniquely positioned to build vessels like the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutters,” U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement. “The Offshore Patrol Cutter would not only be an excellent fit for BIW, but it would also create good jobs and be a substantial boost to Maine’s economy. We are delighted that BIW has been selected to move forward in the Coast Guard’s contract process.”

A call to Bath Iron Works for comment was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

Construction on the cutters is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2017.

The new cutters are designed to “replace the aging fleet of 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate and are, in many respects, technologically obsolete,” according to the Coast Guard’s website.

The new, “next-generation” cutters reportedly will feature “increased range and endurance, more powerful weapons, a larger flight deck, and improved command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance … equipment.”

BIW builds destroyers for the U.S. Navy. The shipyard hasn’t built a vessel for the Coast Guard since the 1930s, although in recent years it has explored that possibility. In late 2008, the Bollinger Shipyard edged out BIW in a competition for new Coast Guard cutter contracts worth up to $1.5 billion.