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PM announces $4.3bn investment in naval shipbuilding capability

The Commonwealth government has pledged to develop a new dry-docking facility at Western Australia’s Henderson Shipyard to “turbocharge” the national shipbuilding effort.

The Commonwealth government has pledged to develop a new dry-docking facility at Western Australia’s Henderson Shipyard to “turbocharge” the national shipbuilding effort.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a $4.3 billion investment in the development of the first large-vessel dry docking facility at Henderson Shipyard in Western Australia.

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The new dry-dock will be designed to facilitate the construction and sustainment of large naval vessels in Australia, while also supporting Western Australia’s commercial shipbuilding and sustainment market.

Australian Naval Infrastructure has been tapped to oversee the project, with work scheduled to commence in 2023, initial operational capability expected in 2028, and final operating capability in 2030. 

The Commonwealth government, WA government and industry stakeholders have pledged to collaborate to develop a master plan for the defence precinct at Henderson, ensuring the new infrastructure is capable of supporting the national naval shipbuilding enterprise.

The new dry-docking facility is tipped to generate approximately 2,000 direct shipbuilding jobs once completed, with up to 500 jobs created at the peak of construction.

According to Prime Minister Morrison, the project would help build sovereign capabilities and “turbocharge” national naval shipbuilding.

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“This is a $4.3 billion vote of confidence in Western Australia’s shipbuilding capabilities, jobs, training and the critical role that Western Australia plays in defending Australian and powering our national economy,” he said.

“This multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment will transform the Henderson maritime precinct into a world-class shipbuilding powerhouse, and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to naval capability in the West.

“This investment in WA’s future will ensure we can build, as well as sustain larger vessels in Australia, turbocharging our national naval shipbuilding endeavour and creating thousands of job opportunities for West Australians.”

Prime Minister Morrison noted the importance of Henderson Shipyard, along with HMAS Stirling and Fleet Base West in securing the nation’s future, given the strategic importance of the naval bases in the Indian Ocean.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton said this latest investment builds on the $1.5 billion commitment to infrastructure improvements at HMAS Stirling and the Henderson maritime precinct. 

“The Morrison government is committed to delivering the sovereign shipbuilding outcomes outlined in the 2020 Force Structure Plan and the 2017 National Naval Shipbuilding Plan, and Western Australia is central to them,” Minister Dutton said.

“This decision will ensure that we can meet the Navy’s future requirements as we undertake the enormous investments in the maritime capabilities, we need to keep our nation safe in the decades ahead.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price welcomed the project, outlining the benefits for Western Australia’s defence industry.  

“This is a significant infrastructure project that Australian industry is already supporting through concept work and there will be significant future job opportunities for Australian industry throughout design and construction, and once it’s up and running,” Minister Price said.

“The project will build the capacity and capability of sovereign defence industry in the region, particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector, with Australian Industry Capability requirements in contracting arrangements.

“The infrastructure will also support Defence’s $90 million Regional Maintenance Centre due to be operational in Henderson in the second half of 2022 to enable a level of maintenance to be conducted on all surface fleet units and creating 40 jobs.”

This is the latest of four notable investments in Defence capability announced over the past week.

On Thursday (10 March), the government announced $38 billion would be invested in expanding the Australian Defence Force by 30 per cent, increasing the number of personnel by 18,500 to an estimated 80,000 by 2040.

Under the plan, the ADF would command 6,000 more troops than the "critical minimum" recommended by Defence to provide "redundancy and resilience" to cover casualties in the event of an armed conflict.

This is set to represent the largest ADF force since the Vietnam War.

The plan will be rolled out across all warfighting domains and all states and territories. 

The workforce growth will particularly focus on capabilities associated with the trilateral security partnership between Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), as well as air, sea, land, space and cyber.

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Morrison announced plans to develop a new naval base on Australia's east coast to support the operation of the Royal Australian Navy’s future nuclear-powered submarines promised under the AUKUS agreement.

The new base is expected to include specialised wharfs; maintenance facilities; administrative and logistics support; personal amenities; and suitable accommodation for submarine crews and support staff, including visitors. 

Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla have been shortlisted among 19 locations reviewed by the government. 

The Commonwealth government is reportedly favouring development in Wollongong’s Port Kembla, as outlined in a submission to the cabinet's National Security Committee.  

Most recently, the government contracted wholly-owned Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific to supply 24 ‘Integrator’ tactical uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) to the Australian Army under the LAND 129 Phase 3 project.

The acquisition and initial contract period with Insitu Pacific are estimated to be worth approximately $307 million, and forms part of a new $650 million Commonwealth government investment in Defence capability.

The contract also includes the delivery of associated ground systems and prime systems integrator services. 

The platforms are set to be manufactured from the company’s facility in Brisbane, with delivery expected in 2023 and 2024.

[Related: Insitu Pacific secures major LAND 129 Phase 3 order] 

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

PM announces $4.3bn investment in naval shipbuilding capability
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