Queensland will play a key role in Australia's naval defence efforts, with four of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels and any future Hydrographic vessels to be based in the Cairns region.
Minister for Defence Marise Payne and member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch visited HMAS Cairns and Porton Barracks for a briefing and to meet with local business operators, through Advance Cairns, and the Cairns marine precinct operators to discuss the local capabilities available in Cairns.
Minister Payne said that as the northernmost naval base along the eastern seaboard, HMAS Cairns continues to play a key strategic role in Australia’s northern naval capability.
"HMAS Cairns is home to over 900 Navy and civilian personnel and is the homeport for a range of key Navy vessels, providing security to northern Australia," Minister Payne said.
Cairns industry already supports the homeported Armidale Class patrol boats, hydrographic vessels and Cape Class patrol boats, as well as other major fleet units.
"HMAS Cairns also supports our major fleet units, with HMA Ships Success and Anzac scheduled to make port calls to Cairns in the middle of the year following regional deployments," the minister said.
Over the coming years, the government will invest more than $380 million to upgrade facilities and wharf infrastructure at HMAS Cairns, with a further $300 million slated on a base redevelopment beyond that in the late 2020s. Local businesses are set to secure contracts for the upgrades under the government's Local Industry Capability Plan.
"Under our Local Industry Capability Plan requirement, local Cairns businesses will be in the box seat to do most of this work, creating economic growth and jobs in the local region," Minister Payne said.
The Defence Minister said the basing of various vessels in the region not only support patrol and response operations, but also local businesses and industry.
“Basing four OPVs in Cairns will strategically support patrol and response operations in our significant northern and eastern maritime approaches, while also providing significant opportunities for industry in Cairns to support these vessels, which are larger and more complex than the existing Armidale Class patrol boats," she said.
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"This also translates to an increased Navy presence in the region, including Navy families, which will also bring greater economic benefits to the Cairns region."
Entsch said the continued investment in Cairns builds on the $24 million that the government provided to the Cairns Marine Precinct operators last year to help upgrade their facilities.
"I will continue to work towards securing a common-user facility for Cairns that will give us the opportunity to provide appropriate dry-docking facilities meeting Defence requirements for the OPVs," Entsch said.
“More vessels homeported in Cairns means more opportunities for ongoing sustainment and maintenance work.”