The ceremony was conducted at Austal's dedicated Pacific Patrol Boat construction facility atNaval Base in Western Australia.
Austal chief executive David Singleton said the ceremonial keel laying was a significant milestone in the $306 million Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) Project, which is the first major element of the Australian government’s $89 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.
"Austal is delivering on every aspect of the Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement project; from the design and build here in Henderson, to the sustainment of the vessels in Cairns," Singleton said
Austal is currently estimating the project will create more than 200 direct jobs and will employ around 300 in the supply chain.
"This project is anticipated to employ more than 200 people directly at Austal and hundreds more through our growing Australian supply chain, providing outstanding career opportunities for both qualified workers and apprentices across the country," explained Singleton.
"We’ve already employed more than 30 new apprentices so far this year and we anticipate having 100 on board by the end of 2017.
"The Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement contract further highlights Austal’s inherent capability to deliver the Royal Australian Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels, with joint venture partner Fassmer of Germany and our established supply chain of over 1,000 companies Australia-wide."
Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne attended the ceremony and discussed the future of the 19 vessels.
"Once constructed and tested, all 19 boats will be gifted to 12 Pacific island countries as part of Australia’s new Pacific Maritime Security Program," Minister Pyne said.
The countries will use the boats to conduct maritime surveillance and enforcement operations, such as combating illegal fishing.
"I opened the construction facility in March and laying this keel shows the Turnbull government’s $89 billion naval shipbuilding program is on track," said Minister Pyne.
"This project demonstrates the vital role WA plays in delivering the capability requirements of the Australian Defence Force."
The first boat is scheduled to be completed in October 2018 and then handed over to Papua New Guinea.
The PPB-R contract was awarded to Austal following a competitive tender in May 2016 and comprises the design, build and sustainment of 19 39.5-metre steel-hulled patrol boats, for 12 Pacific Island nations.
The first boat celebrated its cutting steel ceremony at HD Plasma and Laser Cutting Services in April, one of the numerous subcontractors in the Perth region benefiting from the project.