In recent months, federal and state political issues have dominated the discussion of the Offshore Patrol Vessels program. Defence Connect spoke with one of the program’s tenderers who said moving the project from South Australia to Western Australia is no issue.
WA figures have criticised the project starting in SA in 2018 and have also expressed doubt that it will make its way over to WA after completion of the first two OPVs, despite the federal government insisting it will when the Future Frigates build commences.
Two German companies, Lürssen and Fassmer, and Dutch company Damen are all tendering for the $3 billion OPV project.
Dirk Malgowski, Lürssen's managing director (defence), told Defence Connect if the German company is successful in winning the project, beginning the build in SA and uphauling to WA poses no challenge for the company.
"First of all, I think we do not have to debate it, because it is a decision made by the government to try to mitigate the slowdown in business in South Australia at the ASC facility," Malgowski said.
The managing director said the company's method of shipbuilding across various shipyards in Germany, rather than just one, is well suited to this particular project and only lends to the company's suitability for the project.
"On the other hand, we as a German company, are very much used to, let's say, building national shipbuilding programs on different shipyards. And we even have built corvettes and frigates where the bow section was manufactured on shipyard number one, the aft shipyard number two, and it was all assembled in shipyard number three, without any major hiccups or problems, or delays," Malgowski said.
"So building two out of 12 in South Australia and then have still, let's say, a remarkable number of OPVs being built in West Australia, I think is not an issue at all. I think it will not deteriorate efficiency and effectiveness of our team."
Lürssen recently appointed respected Australian military figure Vice Admiral (Ret'd) Chris Ritchie AO and former federal cabinet minister John Sharp to its Australian board, as the company looks to build up a shipbuilding and naval export business in Australia.
The German company has partnered with Forgacs (Civmec) and ASC for its bid, as has Damen.
German designer Fassmer has partnered with Austal for its OPV bid.