Australia stands on the brink of a new era of export-led naval shipbuilding and Western Australia will play a key role, a defence industry conference in Perth has been told.
Lürssen Defence managing director Dirk Malgowski said naval shipbuilding offered a huge new opportunity for Australia and WA in particular.
He told the 2017 Defence Industry Conference – sub-titled Doing Business With Defence – the heart of this new enterprise would be at Henderson, south of Perth, providing an export platform for global companies such as Lürssen to sell minor warships into the fast-growing markets of Indo-Asia.
“We believe Australia stands on the brink of a new era of export-led naval shipbuilding,” Malgowski said.
“In our vision of this new era, Western Australia will lead the way. There is no better place from where to base an export industry and Western Australians should take enormous pride in that fact.”
German shipbuilder Lürssen is one of three firms bidding to build 12 new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Royal Australian Navy, a deal worth around $3 billion.
The other contenders are Fassmer, also of Germany, and Damen of the Netherlands.
The new vessels will replace ageing Armidale Class patrol boats with larger vessels of substantially greater capability. Work on the first two vessels will start in Adelaide next year and transfer to Perth in 2020 when construction of Future Frigates gets under way in Adelaide.
Whoever builds OPVs and Future Frigates, WA stands to perform a substantial amount of the work.
In June, ASC Shipbuilding and WA shipbuilder Austal announced they had teamed up, offering to build ships for whichever of the three contenders – Navantia, BAE Systems or Fincantieri – was chosen to build the nine Future Frigates.
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ASC Shipbuilding has also partnered with Forgacs, a subsidiary of WA engineering company Civmec, to build new OPVs.
Two of the three shortlisted OPV designers, Lürssen and Damen, have agreements with ASC/Forgacs to build their OPVs if they are selected.
The WA conference heard from representatives of a number of the big players, including the WA government, Lürssen, Damen, Navantia and Forgacs, who outlined the opportunities.
Malgowski said their partnership with Civmec, which is constructing an $80 million undercover shipbuilding facility at Henderson, will help transform the state into a national epicentre of manufacturing and naval shipbuilding excellence.
Discussing the flow-on opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises, he called for a “national mindset” towards shipbuilding to maximise employment and investment opportunities.
“If selected for the OPV project we will give SMEs around the country access to our global supply chain,” he said.
Malgowski said sharing the maintenance work from the OPV program across a broad range of Australian towns and cities will be a boon to local economies.
It will also ensure that SMEs benefit greatly from the “economic halo” generated by the many products and services required to support the shipbuilding effort, he said.