A new design office in South Australia will become the hub for the commercial sales of Australia’s largest defence exporter.
As reported on Defence Connect in May, shipbuilder Austal announced it was expanding from Western Australia into Adelaide with the establishment of a new design and project management office.
Defence Connect spoke with Austal's chief executive David Singleton, who outlined the plans the company has for the design office, and what this means for the $3 billion Offshore Patrol Vessel contract and commercial sales.
"The reason for having a design office in Adelaide is we fundamentally believe in keeping the design people close to the build, because they're best able to help with problems and issues as you go through the build program, which inevitably you have, so it's very important to have the design people, not in the same country, but right next door to the build, and that's what we will do by having the design office in Adelaide," explained Singleton.
While initially the program will be supporting the OPV design work, Singleton is optimistic the office will also enhance the company's export program.
"Their initial program at work will be detailed drawing work required for build on this vessel, and that's a considerable amount of work," said Singleton.
"As a result of that, there'll be a lot of training and development of people through that process. After OPV is completed, our hope is to continue with the design office in Adelaide because we think that it will give us more flexibility in the design work we need for our export program. And, in fact, one of our biggest issues for our commercial shipbuilding program is having enough design capacity to do the orders that we're seeing in front of us, so what we will probably do is end up having part of our export design capability focused in Adelaide.
"So the first priority is to get OPV done, but of course that comes to an end in Adelaide in two years time. We will then be looking to use those people for our commercial sales. As you know, we make a considerable number of commercial sales every year, those vessels all need ... new designs and design support to them, and I think these people, they get involved in that program."
Austal has entered into a 50-50 joint venture partnership with German designer Fassmer for the OPV project. AustalFassmer is competing against European designers Damen and Lürssen, both of which have teamed with ASC Shipbuilding and Forgacs Marine and Defence for the project.
Two vessels will be constructed in Adelaide before construction begins on the Future Frigates Project, which will see the remaining 10 OPVs constructed in WA.