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Establishing a shipbuilding powerhouse

austal lcs
Austal's Littoral Combat Ship.

With shipbuilding contracts across the globe, Austal is one of Australia’s biggest defence success stories, held in high regard across industry and government alike. Austal CEO David Singleton joined Defence Connect to take us through how the West Australian business established itself as a world-leading shipbuilding giant.

In recent days, Austal has secured a further contract for the Independence Class littoral combat ship (LCS) for the US and a $190 million contract to design and build two trimaran ferries for long-term customer Fred Olsen S.A. of the Canary Islands, Spain – a testament to the company's international standing, which Singleton said has come about from two key factors.

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"What's made Austal what it is, I think it's two things," said Singleton.

"One is this absolute ruthless focus on producing things and design that other people do not do. We're very clear about what we're good at, and we focus really hard on that. What we do most people in the world don't do. So we're very, very differentiated.

"The second thing is that because we come from a country with a small industrial base and a small population, we don't have a big market here, so we would never have survived without exports. What pervades our thinking every moment of every day, is exports."

And as the government gears up to release the Defence Export Strategy in the coming months, Singleton says the company's long-term focus on exports has saved it from joining the list of the many Australian shipyards that no longer exist.

"You know we think about it all the time, and if you look at this country we've had 16 different shipyards in this country," explained Singleton.

"There are only three of them operating today, and two of them us, and Incat in Tasmania are export orientated.

"Without that export focus we would have been part of those other 13 shipyards that have failed. But because we're so export orientated, you know, we've been very successful. About 80 per cent of our business now is exports."

Austal, in partnership with German ship designer Fassmer, is bidding for the $3 billion SEA 5000 Offshore Patrol Vessels contracts, and has recently announced the pair have submitted a pre-qualification to bid for the design and build of two OPVs for Malta.

Establishing a shipbuilding powerhouse
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