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Arafura Class OPV program reaches symbolic milestone

The keel has been laid for the first offshore patrol vessel under construction in Western Australia as part of the federal government’s National Shipbuilding Program.

The keel has been laid for the first offshore patrol vessel under construction in Western Australia as part of the federal government’s National Shipbuilding Program.

The Morrison government’s National Shipbuilding Program has reached a symbolic milestone, after the keel was laid for the construction of the first WA-built Arafura Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) named ‘Pilbara’.  


Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds noted that the laying of the keel is an important naval tradition believed to bring “good luck” to the build of the ship and the life of the vessel through the placing of a coin under the keel.

“It demonstrates the success of this government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan, with eight vessels already built and another 10 vessels currently under construction at Henderson and Osborne,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Western Australia is playing a key role in the development of our national naval shipbuilding enterprise, and the government’s $4.7 billion OPV program is spearheading the implementation of this plan and connecting with Australian industry.”


Lürssen Australia is the prime contractor and designer for the OPV program, operating in conjunction with WA-based engineering firm Civmec and South Australian shipbuilding construction and maintenance firm ASC.

The Pilbara is the third of 12 Arafura Class OPVs to be built for the Royal Australian Navy, with the design of the vessels based on the Lürssen PV80. 

“Since construction commenced ahead of schedule in March, the Lürssen and Civmec teams in WA have continued to make significant progress on building the blocks that, when complete, will form a 1,600 tonne 80-metre long OPV,” Minister Reynolds added.

“Made with Australian steel, cut locally in WA, the OPVs will offer greater endurance to undertake maritime patrol and response duties, as well as support specialist missions.”

Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price noted the contribution of the program to the broader economic recovery amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"I am very pleased that Lürssen and Civmec have been able to reach this milestone in such a timely manner, and I have no doubt that is due in part to the practices they put in place to deal with COVID-19," she said. 

“This project has created about 400 jobs here in Perth and involved more than 300 businesses across the Australian supply chain.

“It is on track to achieve more than 60 per cent local industry content.”

Lürssen Australia CEO Jens Nielsen said the keel-laying ceremony was symbolic of the real optimism” about the future of Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

“[This] milestone, along with the construction in Civmec’s newly built world-class shipbuilding facility in Henderson, is another reminder that the construction of the Arafura Class represents an incredible opportunity for Australia’s defence industry,” Nielsen said.

“Many Australian small businesses are supporting through key components and material to assist the construction of these world-class vessels and our Australian industry capability content continues to be high currently at 62.7 per cent.”

Executive chairman of Civmec, Jim Fitzgerald, added, “The Arafura Class program offers an exciting opportunity to showcase Australia’s depth in engineering and related skills.

“We are incredibly proud to be working with Lürssen Australia and so many talented Australians who can look forward to a bright future in the shipbuilding sector.”

[Related: Navy selects iXblue’s inertial navigation systems for Arafura Class OPVs] 

Arafura Class OPV program reaches symbolic milestone
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