The recently formed Henderson Alliance has made its ambitions clear, outlining how the West Australian SMEs plan to capitalise on the naval industry investment and break into the supply chain of maritime primes.
The alliance, which currently has over 17 local SMEs, was formed by SMEs in the Henderson and WA maritime business industry to provide a voice to industry and government for SMEs in defence; to provide a platform for SMEs to form partnerships to allow participation in larger scale projects; and to create a forum for networking, mutual support and innovation.
With 10 of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Australian Navy scheduled to be built in WA from 2020, the alliance has set out to make sure SMEs are not missing out on opportunities to secure work on the mammoth project.
Darryl Hockey of IKAD Engineering, one of the Henderson Alliance's foundation companies, spoke to Defence Connect to put forward the approach the alliance will take to ensure SMEs do everything in their power to get a piece of the work.
"We can sort of approach this like, we can sit there and whinge about it, or we can go ‘hang on, this is a reality’ and we need to get together, we need to create a positive forum, we’ve got to be constructive, we’ve got to tell government and other stakeholders just what we believe needs to happen to maximise the amount of SMEs," said Hockey.
"We can talk about the benefits it will bring and also we can support each other throughout the process. So we’re taking a very positive approach to it, rather than a lobbying approach to it."
IKAD's managing director Ivan Donjerkovich also spoke about the issue and said some of the concerns facing the SMEs primarily relate to the overseas prime contractors.
"Many overseas prime contractors short-listed for the $90 billion programs for new frigates, submarines and offshore patrol boats are major European firms who might prefer not to deal with multiple small local businesses – so we may need to aggregate our capabilities to manage larger work packages," said Donjerkovich.
"The potential danger is the overseas firms only select major Australian partners and Henderson SMEs will struggle for a fair share of the work – this would be the worst possible outcome for the WA economy."
But the MD of the engineering firm said the formation of the alliance is just the beginning of IKAD's commitment to boosting local content within the defence industry.
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"As an example of our local content commitment, we have tendered for a large defence industry contract in Exmouth. While IKAD has the capacity to go it alone, our bid now involves other members of the Henderson Alliance along with some SMEs in Exmouth as well. We saw this as an excellent platform to launch our co-operative approach," Donjerkovich said.
"When it comes to these major new defence contracts, partnerships are the only way to go and my door is always open."