Businesses and workers in the Cairns region are to set to benefit after Thales Australia secured a $55 million contract to service all of the Navy’s Armidale Class patrol boats as they are gradually retired from service over the next few years.
Federal member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said all of the fleet’s maintenance work would be done in Cairns, bringing $55 million of work to the port.
“We have been able to secure all of that work for Cairns, for the life of those vessels,” he said.
The region is also set to benefit from Austal's Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPBR) contract, which will see the construction of 19 steel-hulled patrol boats, as well as an option for two additional vessels.
“It’s very exciting news that not only do we have the commitment for the long-term servicing of the Pacific Patrol Boats in Cairns but also the ongoing sustainment of the Armidales, now that the contract has been awarded to Thales Australia,” Entsch said.
“This is a reflection of the outstanding ability and capacity of our industry and the skill-sets of our trades to be able to deliver on these contracts.
“This is great news for Cairns, and again confirms that we are absolutely committed to the city becoming a northern Australian maritime maintenance hub.”
All of this is in addition to the $24 million election commitment to improve the Cairns Marine Precinct infrastructure, which is being delivered this year.
Entsch said the $24 million marine precinct upgrade is key to securing more work for the Cairns area when the new offshore patrol boats, being built in South Australia and Western Australia, are finished.
The replacement boats are larger than the current boats and will require a 3,000-tonne syncrolift to hoist the ships from the water for repairs – a capability Cairns does not have.
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"It is so important for the $24 million marine precinct upgrade to be done as quickly as possible," Entsch said.
"I want to have a bid in for a 3,000-tonne syncrolift by the end of this year.
"We need that in place before the first offshore patrol boats come online."
The Armidales, which will not be retired until 2019, will also need to be torn down to scraps, another potential revenue source for Cairns, Entsch said.