In a historic moment for the WA naval shipbuilding industry, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne pressed the go button to cut the first steel on the first Pacific Patrol Boat replacement yesterday.
It signifies the start of the Government’s commitment to spend $90 billion on naval ship building, announced in its Defence White Paper last year.
The official plate-cutting ceremony was held at HD Plasma and Laser Cutting Services in Bibra Lake, a supplier to prime contractor Austal.
Henderson-based Austal will deliver 19 x 39.5-metre steel hull vessels as part of the naval ship building project, the first of which will be gifted to Papua New Guinea when it’s completed late next year.
The $306 million contract will create about 207 jobs with all vessels to be delivered by 2023.
Pyne said it was a classic example of how the Federal Government’s commitment to naval shipbuilding was spreading throughout the economy, with 54 vessels to be replaced as part of the program including 21 Pacific Patrol vessels, 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels, nine Future Frigates and 12 submarines.
He hoped the program would lead to opportunities for export for the companies involved.
“Everywhere I go I bump into French, Italian, UK, German leaders trying to sell their country’s wares overseas … the Pacific Patrol vessels and then the Offshore Patrol Vessels and the Future Frigates are real opportunities for exports from Australia in a very high value product,” he said.
Pyne said the Federal Government was moving quickly on its pledge to create a naval shipbuilding industry.
“We wouldn’t be here today if the Government hadn’t mentioned in the Defence White Paper that we would spend $90 billion on naval ship building and as much of it as possible here in Australia,” he said.
“Today is the first cutting of steel on one of those vessels 14 months after the announcement in the Defence White Paper, it’s very fast in government terms.”
He said WA was strongly placed to reap the benefits as the industry grew.
“We have already seen the benefits with naval ship building showing up in the national accounts for the last quarter of last year as one of the drivers of the economy and here we are cutting steel at HD Plasma and Laser,” he said.
“In the early part of this year we opened the new factory at Austal for Pacific Patrol Vessels. I’ve just come from Civmac and Forgacs down the road where they are building a 20-storey, 29,000 sq m shed because they are having a big vote of confidence in naval shipbuilding and its future in Australia, particularly here in Henderson.
“It’s an $80 million commitment they are making to naval shipbuilding, so there’s no doubt Perth is going to be a major beneficiary and it will become one of the pillars of the economy in WA as it will across the country.”
CCI National Policy Adviser Joe Doleschal-Ridnell said WA companies would be a strong component of the supply chain across all future vessel projects because of their competitive strengths and expertise.
“Wednesday marked the physical beginning of Australia’s continuous shipbuilding program – not overseas, not on the eastern seaboard, but right here in Bibra Lake,” he said.
“The strength of our supply chain is demonstrated by Austal subcontracting this work to HD Plasma and Laser Cutting, which is an expert in delivering steel cutting services to industries across Australia.
“Such access cannot be taken for granted across other jurisdictions, and CCI will continue to highlight the advantage of using WA suppliers in meeting Australia’s shipbuilding endeavours.”
CCI established the WA Defence Industry Council to advocate for WA’s defence industry to maximise WA’s contribution to Australia’s naval build programs.
OPV announcement in the winds
Pyne said he was hoping for an early decision on who would win the contract to build 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels, with tenders closing on March 30.
Three international shipbuilders including Damen Shipyard in partnership with ASC and Forgacs; German shipbuilder Fassmer in partnership with Austal; and German shipbuilder Lurssen were all shortlisted for the OPV bid.
“We had anticipated the decision on the OPVs be made in the third quarter of this year, we’ll make it as soon as we are finished the process and if that’s earlier, which I hope it will be, then we’ll be able to make that decision earlier,” Pyne said.
“We need to start cutting steel on that project in 2018, we need to give certainty to whoever wins the tender that they should start investing in infrastructure … we’ll make it as soon as we possibly can but it certainly won’t be later than the third quarter of this year.”