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Shipbuilding’s valley of death claims another victim

jh williams
Image via @mikesmithson7

After 71 years of business, South Australian metal fabrication company J&H Williams has gone into voluntary liquidation, citing the naval shipbuilding industry’s ‘valley of death’ as a key reason for its demise.

J&H Williams, based in Port Adelaide near the naval shipbuilding precinct, has run into trouble as the Air Warfare Destroyer project has begun to wind down. Despite the Offshore Patrol Vessel project slated to start later this year, the company is unable to see out the gap in between projects.

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"Unfortunately, we’ve had to put the company into creditors voluntarily liquidation … [and] ceased trading effective immediately. Not something I wanted to do after 71 years of business," the company told veteran South Australian journalist Mike Smithson.

"There will be a real possibility of over 200 jobs being missed and orders which would go overseas."

J&H Williams' website says the company designs and manufactures high-quality metal products for various industries including agriculture, construction, defence, mining, hydro, rail, dust and fume control and shipbuilding.

"We provide services like sheetmetal fabrication, laser cutting, turret punching, welding, brake press, HVAC and metal bending," the website says.

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"We are integrally involved in many and wide-ranging projects and industries. Among them are BAE Systems Australia’s work for the Australian Army for the upgrade of M113 A1 vehicles to improve their protection, lethality, mobility and habitability."

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said on Wednesday it was "sad" for the company but the state government could not be expected to underwrite every company in the state.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne blamed the lingering effects of the valley of death on the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments for not commissioning a vessel during their six years in government.

"If Labor had made the decisions even a couple of years before to commission this number of vessels I'm sure that this company would not be going into commission," the minister said.

"For J&H Williams, it’s too late for them."

Shipbuilding’s valley of death claims another victim
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