As the industry awaits the release of the government’s Defence Export Strategy, one Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) contender has backed its already existing Australian supply chain, saying it is the only contender of the three that can guarantee export opportunities for Australian businesses.
Defence Connect spoke with David Singleton, chief executive of Austal, the teaming partner of OPV German tenderer Fassmer, who has questioned the validity of the promises of the two other contenders.
"We see other companies coming in ... talking about, 'well, we'll do exports from here'. Well, that's a promise, but it's only that," Singleton said.
"It's a prediction. We (Austal) don't have to promise exports, we're already doing them. We've been exporting military and commercial ships from Australia for 30 years and we've been very successful at it and we've been winning contracts over the last 12 months, all of which will drive the supply chain here, so I think our ability to meet the volume that these people would like is much stronger than anybody else."
Singleton backed Austal's reliability and success in the industry since its creation nearly three decades ago.
"One of the things that I think that we offer is when there's a lot of money being spent, as there is, a lot of people will come to this country and say they can do this and say they can do that and say they can do the other," Singleton explained. "They will say they can do exports, they will say they can build a supply chain, they can say they will build intellectual property in this country by putting design here, but they will say all those things.
"The reality is though that we have already done all of that and have been doing it for the last 30 years, so the issue is whether you believe someone who's coming, or whether you believe someone who's already been doing it unaided for the last 30 years, and that I think is what's key about the approach that Austal and Fassmer have taken, which is we're just going to do what we've been doing for a long period of time and just keep doing it, and we've been reliable and trustworthy in that approach.
"What you have to think about with Austal is that probably about five times as much work goes into the supply chain from Austal as is required for the Australian government. What I mean by that is because of all of our exports, all of our suppliers have ability, not only to be on a few vessels for the Australian government, but on all of our exports as well. So we have a much bigger capacity for work, for creating work for a supply chain, [than] anybody else here or anybody else is able to do, 'cause no-one's going to export vessels to the level that we currently do."
The CEO of Australia's largest defence exporter also offered an optimistic message to Australian companies hoping to break into Austal's supply chain.
"We've got a very large supply chain here of over a thousand companies in Australia, much of that that we use continuously, but we're always looking for new high quality companies," explained Singleton.
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"I think anybody who sits outside of the supply chain today has the opportunity of saying to us, 'well, that's something that we could do and we think we can do better'."
AustalFassmer, Damen and Lürssen are all tendering for the $3 billion OPV project. The project will see 12 vessels constructed, two in South Australia and 10 in Western Australia.