As South Australian politicians seek answers from the federal government for not mandating the use of Australian shipbuilders for the Future Frigates project, Austal and ASC Shipbuilding have reiterated their shared support of the government's plans to establish a sovereign continuous shipbuilding industry in Australia.
Austal and ASC Shipbuilding announced a teaming agreement in June to support the $35 billion project, by offering what they call "a compelling, low risk, Australian shipbuilding solution for each of the three shortlisted international designers".
Despite the project's Request for Tender (RFT) revealing there is no binding obligation for any of the successful bidders to use an Australian workforce, Austal and ASC Shipbuilding have spruiked their joint shipbuilding solution for the program.
The two leading home-grown shipbuilders have been so-far left out of the tender process, but in a statement yesterday outlined their expertise, track record and sovereign Australian control as aligned to the Government’s strategic shipbuilding goals.
"To enhance Australia’s national security, our local defence industry, shipbuilding sovereignty and export opportunities, ASC Shipbuilding and Austal are committed to working with all of the three designers vying to be the prime contractor for the Future Frigate program," a joint statement from the companies said.
"Although the Austal - ASC Shipbuilding team are currently not part of the tender process, we stand ready to engage with all of the three shortlisted international designers, and the Commonwealth government, to ensure the SEA 5000 program receives the benefit of our low risk, commercially proven, sovereign capability.
"This engagement can be achieved in a timely manner that does not put at risk commencement of frigate construction in Adelaide in 2020."
Two of the three contenders for the project have backed the Australian workforce, with a spokesperson for BAE Systems telling Defence Connect: "If successful, the company will invest in a domestic naval shipbuilding workforce, growing on the existing skills, talent and numbers of employees already employed in South Australia and across the nation to deliver the engineering, science and highly skilled technicians that will be needed over the life of the program, and that will be essential to supporting a sustainable shipbuilding capability in Australia."
Spanish company Navantia also affirmed its commitment to a local workforce.
"Navantia Australia is committed to using the Adelaide workforce and Australian industry for the F-5000," said Donato Martínez, managing director of Navantia Australia.
"Working with Australian industry, we will continue to grow Australia’s sovereign shipbuilding capability as we have done for over a decade.
"When we already have an experienced shipbuilding workforce in Adelaide, why would we look anywhere else?"
The $35 billion project will see nine vessels constructed to replace the existing ANZAC fleet.
BAE Systems has offered the Global Combat Ship-Australia, a variant of its Type 26 Global Combat Ship for the UK Navy, a project that recently commenced manufacturing. Navantia has put forward its F-5000 and said it will be designed locally to meet specific requirements of the Royal Australian Navy and built in Adelaide using expertise, experience and equipment from Australia.
Italian firm Fincantieri has offered its FREMM Frigate.