Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Christopher Pyne have welcomed a major milestone for the first of Australia’s 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels, with steel cut today at Civmec’s facility in Western Australia.
Australian steel is being used for all 12 OPVs and after being prepared and processed in WA, it will be delivered to South Australia. Two ships are being built at Osborne in SA by ASC Shipbuilding before construction for the other 10 moves to Civmec in WA in 2020.
The first bolt has also been locked down on the steelwork at the country’s largest ship assembly hall at Civmec’s massive new $85 million Henderson facility. The facility will also include a blast and paint workshop, undercover storage, offices and carparks.
The facility project will create around 140 jobs and Civmec estimates it will provide positions for up to 1,000 West Australians, including 100 new apprentices and trainees, when it’s up and running.
Minister Pyne said, "This is a major milestone in the Coalition government’s national shipbuilding plan, which is delivering the capability our military needs, using Australian workers and Australian steel."
SEA 1180 Phase 1 OPVs will replace and improve upon the capability delivered by the 13 Armidale Class Patrol Boats by acquiring the 12 new vessels. The primary role of the OPV will be to undertake constabulary missions and the OPV will be the primary ADF asset for maritime patrol and response duties.
A competitive evaluation process (CEP) commenced in late 2015 and concluded with the signing of a contract with Lürssen Australia on 31 January 2018.
"The new OPVs will have significant improvements over the Armidale Class Patrol Boats, including in range and endurance, to allow the Navy to undertake more border patrols covering greater distances in more complex maritime environments," Minister Pyne explained.
This announcement comes following a series of concerns regarding cost blow outs of the SEA 1180 project, which saw then Defence Industry Minister Pyne rejecting claims made by South Australian senator Rex Patrick that the OPV project had increased in price by $870 million from $1.96 billion to $2.83 billion.
Additionally, Labor's Defence spokesman Richard Marles echoed the concerns raised by Senator Patrick, following an ANAO report. Marles also expressed concerns around the exclusion of Western Australia-based ship designer and builder, Austal from the bidding process, with talks between Lürssen and Austal breaking down earlier in the year following months of negotiations to include the Australia company.
Defence strongly denied the cost overrun concerns raised by both Senator Patrick and Marles. The announcement of Lürssen as the winning bidder has provided a boom for Henderson based Civmec, with Civmec CEO Pat Tallon saying at the time, "Securing such long-term work is great news for the company, our employees and our current and future apprentices and trainees. It reinforces our decision to invest in the development of a new state-of-the-art shipbuilding facility at our Henderson yard."
Civmec's Henderson existing facility encompasses 200,000 sqm of land at the Australian Marine Complex (AMC). This facility will be joined by a new, purpose built, 53,000 sqm, 70 metre high, undercover modularisation, repair and maintenance facility.
Once completed, the facility will be able to house complete Air Warfare Destroyers, Frigates and OPVs, for construction or maintenance and introduces a national shipbuilding capacity substantially greater than anything that currently exists. Designed to be one of the most efficient and innovative in the world, the new facility will be a significant piece of industrial infrastructure, adding a new world-class resource to the Australian maritime landscape and considerably enhancing the capability available in Western Australia.
Civmec’s Executive Chairman, James Fitzgerald, said: "At times like this, it’s important to stop and reflect on the company’s achievements. This facility will create employment for numerous generations to come. It will be a hub for training and innovation and will be a home-grown leader in the future of modern heavy engineering. It’s a facility that West Australians, and indeed all Australians, can be proud of."
In April 2018, Lürssen Australia awarded Civmec a significant contract for the new build program for the Royal Australian Navy’s SEA 1180 OPVs. The contract includes the supply and processing of steel for 12 vessels. The first two vessels will be built in South Australia by ASC and Civmec will undertake the fabrication, construction and consolidation for the following 10 vessels in Western Australia.
ASC serves Australia's naval defence capabilities, with more than 2,500 employees across three facilities in SA and WA. ASC has evolved into Australia's largest specialised defence shipbuilding organisation, with naval design and engineering resources unparalleled within Australia's defence industry.
Lürssen is a global leader in designing and building ships of the highest quality for demanding customers all over the world. 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 for the SEA 1180 project.
Civmec is an integrated, multi-disciplinary construction and engineering services provider to the Oil & Gas, Metals & Minerals, Infrastructure and Marine & Defence sectors. Headquartered in Henderson, Western Australia, Civmec has regional offices in Broome (Western Australia), Darwin (Northern Territory, Australia), Newcastle and Sydney (New South Wales, Australia), and Gladstone (Queensland, Australia).