Australian shipbuilding giant Austal has been tapped to expand its production of the patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy.
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The Commonwealth government has ordered two additional evolved Cape Class patrol boats (ECCPBs) from WA-based shipbuilder Austal under a new $124 million SEA1445-1 investment.
This builds on an initial order for six ECCPBs, taking the total size of the Royal Australian Navy’s prospective fleet to eight.
The vessels, built at Henderson Shipyard, will replace the Armidale Class fleet ahead of the delivery of the next-generation Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels, developed as part of Project SEA 1180.
The expanded program is tipped to support approximately 500 local jobs.
The new order was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit to Henderson Shipyard on Monday (18 April).
The Prime Minister was joined by Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price MP; Assistant Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie, Attorney General Michaelia Cash; President of the Senate, Senator Slade Brockman and Liberal candidate for the seat of Fremantle, Bill Koul.
Prime Minister Morrison touted the benefits of the patrol boats for both Navy and the Australian Border Force (ABF), which is expected to accept two vessels into service upon the delivery of the Arafura Class fleet.
“The purchase will strengthen our naval patrol force, but it will also ensure that with the Cape Class boats, that will go to Border Force, it will take them from eight to 10,” he said.
Minister Price said the expanded deal would further support Australia’s naval shipbuilding endeavour.
“Now this is as much about capability as it is about making sure that we have the jobs of the future,” she said.
“With our ambitious shipbuilding program, we need 15,000 people across our country to work in shipbuilding. We have around 4,000 people at the moment.
“When we talk about jobs in shipbuilding, this is absolutely necessary when it comes to the defence of our nation.”
Austal Limited CEO Paddy Gregg welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Defence and local industry to further enhance Navy capability.
“This announcement for additional evolved Cape Class patrol boats further strengthens and supports Australian sovereign shipbuilding capability and provides Austal, and our outstanding supply chain partners, with a level of continuity that will provide stability and security for the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise,” Gregg said.
“Austal will also continue to invest and develop our facilities in Henderson to ensure we have the capability and capacity for the future program of work the Prime Minister has previously announced.”
This latest announcement comes just a month after Defence formally accepted into service the first Austal-built ECCPB, named Cape Otway.
The second of the eight patrol boats, currently receiving finishing touches and undergoing sea trials, is scheduled to be formally accepted by Defence in July this year.
The vessels, based on the original 58 metre aluminium monohull design, have a crew capacity of 32, up from 22 in the original Cape Class vessels.
The boats will be deployed for border protection, fisheries and constabulary duties.