Improving Australia’s defence industry export potential has a been a large focus of the industry and the government since the release of the 2016 Defence White Paper. One of the Offshore Patrol Vessel tenderers spoke with Defence Connect and discussed how this ambition can be made into a reality for the Australian government and industry.
Dirk Malgowski, managing director (defence) of German company Lürssen, told Defence Connect that while it is confident in its OPV SEA 1180 bid, the company is also using the project as an opportunity to explore options for expansion into the Asia-Pacific region, in line with the government and industry's hopes to break into the global supply chain.
"I believe it is very valid what the Australian government intends to achieve [with the] sustainable naval shipbuilding industry," Malgowski said.
"And, if you intend to do this, you cannot exclusively do it on the back of homegrown programs. So what you have to ensure over the time is that you have the ability to export. Exporting means you need to compete on a global scale and, therefore, you have to add competitive cost structures. We believe that we are building these up."
Lürssen, which has been operating in the shipbuilding industry for over 140 years, hopes to bring Australian partners access to the global supply chain it has built up over the decades.
"We are bringing, let's say, the market access to the table that we have built up in the last 60 years," said Malgowski.
"We have lots of export customers and clients throughout the last decades in the area in the Asia-Pacific, and we are very much interested in setting up an industrial second hub in Australia because, as of today, we are exclusively operating out of Germany. We feel long-term this is not, lets say, the right way to do. We believe that we will be seeing elsewhere, government support when targeting export markets out of Australia."
And while the company is committed to expanding export markets out of Australia, it has no plans to create a shipyard in Australia.
"We have no interest to build up a known shipyard over here. We are trying to formalise long-term partnerships with the partner that we [have just] started to work with and, for the time being, and due to the fact that 10 out of 12 of these will be built in Perth, in Western Australia, we have set up our local office in Perth."
The OPV program is valued at $3 billion.
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Lürssen, Fassmer and Damen are the three tenderers for the program. Lürssen and Damen have both teamed with SA-based ASC Shipbuilding and WA-based Forgacs (a subsidiary of Civmec) as part of their bids for the project. Fassmer has entered into a 50-50 joint venture partnership with Austal.