The announcement of Lürssen as the successful tenderer for the $3.6 billion project follows an extensive competitive evaluation process and request for tender (RFT) evaluation spanning approximately two years, which required designers to team with Australian industrial partners to build the 12 OPVs for the ADF.
Lürssen chief executive Peter Lürssen said the German shipbuilder stands ready to deliver new opportunities to Australian businesses and suppliers through the SEA 1180 project, which is first major capital expenditure component of the Australian government’s Continuous Naval Shipbuilding Plan that will see over $90 billion invested in Australian naval capability over the coming decades.
"Australia stands on the brink of the most significant national shipbuilding effort in its modern history, so to be selected to lead a part of this enterprise at this early stage is a tremendous honour and responsibility which we intend to fully meet," he said.
"Our ambition from the start of this process has been clear: to deliver the best vessel for the Royal Australian Navy from a proven low-risk design; to build that vessel by investing in the development of Australian shipbuilding skills; and to open up new opportunities for Australian businesses and suppliers by contributing to a sustainable and globally competitive industrial base."
As the preferred tenderer, Lürssen will be the designer and prime contractor for the OPV program and, together with its shipbuilding partners, will commence construction of the first two vessels in 2018 at ASC’s Osborne shipyard with the balance of 10 vessels to be completed at Henderson in Western Australia.
Lürssen’s Australian team includes major subcontractors L3 Australia, SAAB Australia and Penske, and, as part of its commitment to Australian industry content, Lürssen has committed to involving Australian SMEs and subcontractors in the project.
"We see vast opportunities for SMEs across the entire country from the shipbuilding program, including in the construction of the vessels, contributing supplies, in shipyard services, in future sustainment work and in supporting industries.
"What we are proposing fully reflects the national collaborative approach enshrined in the government’s shipbuilding plan and Lürssen’s commitment to developing an Australian sovereign capability.”
Lürssen told Defence Connect in June that the company had been looking to establish a base outside of Europe to design and build warships for the export market and that the OPV project offered a credible opportunity to build an Australian sovereign shipbuilding capability and to establish an export-led industrial base.
Lürssen, which has been operating in the shipbuilding industry for over 140 years, hopes to bring Australian partners access to the global supply chain it has built up over the decades.
"We are bringing ... the market access to the table that we have built up in the last 60 years," said Dirk Malgowski, managing director of Lürssen (defence).
"We have lots of export customers and clients throughout the last decades in the area in the Asia-Pacific, and we are very much interested in setting up an industrial second hub in Australia because, as of today, we are exclusively operating out of Germany. We feel long-term this is not, lets say, the right way to do. We believe that we will be seeing elsewhere, government support when targeting export markets out of Australia."
And while the company is committed to expanding export markets out of Australia, it has no plans to create a shipyard in Australia.
"We have no interest to build up a known shipyard over here," Malgowski said.
From 2018, Lürssen will call for scholarships from undergraduates in relevant engineering, marine architecture and design courses, as well as apprentices and tradespeople undertaking TAFE qualifications under its SEA scholarship program.
The scholarship program will include workplace placements win Australia and Europe for selected scholarship recipients with Lürssen, ASC Shipbuilding and Forgacs to develop professional experience.
The program is designed to support the OPV’s workforce skilling requirements, should Lürssen, ASC Shipbuilding and Forgacs prove successful in the OPV tender. Lürssen and its Australian partners anticipate the program will complement the government’s Naval Shipbuilding College initiative.
Malgowski said the German shipbuilder was excited for the opportunity to assist in developing a highly skilled local workforce.
"With our partners in the Offshore Patrol Vessel program, Lürssen is dedicated to ensuring young Australians can learn a range of skills to set them up for a satisfying and rewarding life-long career," Malgowski said.
"I have no doubt Australia can build a world-class workforce that can assist Lürssen, our partners – indeed every shipbuilder looking to hire – in taking advantage of the government’s national shipbuilding endeavor."
Lürssen beat out bids from Dutch company Damen, which was also partnered with ASC and Civmec, as well as German company Fassmer, which was in a joint venture with Austal.