The government is investing around $350 million for the build program of six new Cape Class patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy.
The vessels will be built by Western Australian company Austal, securing Australian shipbuilding jobs and maintaining strong border protection. The Australian Border Force currently operates eight Cape Class patrol boats, while the Navy operates two leased Cape Class.
The six new Cape Class patrol boats will grow the patrol boat force to 16 vessels, while the new larger Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels are introduced into service.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the new vessels will play an important role in keeping Australia’s borders safe, while Navy’s new capability is brought online.
“These vessels will not only enhance national security but will provide important economic stimulus and employment continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Minister Reynolds said.
“The ability to build more of these vessels in Australia will deliver Australian industry content of more than 65 per cent, providing significant opportunities for Australian industry and Defence, as well as more than 1,200 workers in the broader Australian supply chain.”
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the six new patrol boats will be built at Austal’s shipyard in Henderson, Perth.
“This will help to ensure continued employment opportunities for 400 of Austal’s commercial shipbuilders in WA, with flow down benefits to Austal’s supply chain,” Minister Price said.
“Austal is an Australian industry success story with the company already building variants of the Cape Class patrol boat for international customers including the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
“They are also building the Guardian Class patrol boats in support of the Morrison government’s Pacific Patrol Boat program.”
Austal chief executive David Singleton reinforced the comments of ministers Reynold and Price, saying the new contract both reaffirmed the Cape Class as Australia’s pre-eminent patrol boat platform and represented a clear commitment by the Australian government to strengthen Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding industry during a challenging global environment, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Since its introduction by the Australian Border Force (ABF) in 2013, the Cape Class has proven to be a high-performing, reliable and effective maritime asset, utilised for a wide variety of constabulary and naval missions, playing a critical role in Australia’s national security,” Singleton said.
Based on Austal’s proven 58-metre aluminium monohull design, the new RAN evolved Capes will include a number of enhancements that further extend the capability of the vessel and the fleet. These evolved Cape Class patrol boats include modifications determined through the extensive in-service experience of the RAN and ABF Capes currently operating throughout northern Australia.
Crew capacity has been increased by 10 people, to now total 32 and quality-of-life provisions have been enhanced, ensuring those who operate the new Capes have connectivity to the outside world regardless of the operating environment.
Further improvements have been incorporated into the new RAN Cape design, developed during the design and construction of two Cape Class patrol boats for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard; an export contract awarded on 16 August 2019 and won with the strong support of the Australian government and Export Finance Australia.
The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard Capes (Hulls 398 and 399) are currently in an advanced state of construction and are scheduled for delivery later in 2020.
Construction of the six Capes for the RAN will commence immediately at Austal Australia’s Henderson, Western Australia, shipyard with deliveries scheduled from September 2021, then successively through to mid-2023.
Austal has designed, constructed and sustained the Commonwealth of Australia’s entire fleet of patrol boats since 1998; including the Bay, Armidale and Cape Class operated by the Royal Australian Navy and Australian Border Force, comprising 32 vessels.
Austal is also delivering 21 Guardian Class patrol boats for 12 Pacific island nations and Timor Leste under the SEA3036-1 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement Project, with six patrol boats delivered since 2018.
Henderson-based Austal provides in-service support to both the Cape and Guardian Class patrol boat fleets through service centres located in Henderson; Cairns, Queensland; and Darwin, Northern Territory.