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Roadmap to transform Australia’s shipbuilding capability

damen opv   sea axe

With a decision for the Offshore Patrol Vessel project looming, Dutch tenderer Damen has outlined the challenges and requirements facing the workforces in South Australia and Western Australia, and the solutions it has proposed under its SEA 1180 bid.

With a decision for the Offshore Patrol Vessel project looming, Dutch tenderer Damen has outlined the challenges and requirements facing the workforces in South Australia and Western Australia, and the solutions it has proposed under its SEA 1180 bid.

One of the unusual characteristics of the SEA 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) build is the requirement of having two separate workforces in two separate states, and the associated complexities, with the requirements of one workforce remarkably different from the other, according to Damen.

In the case of South Australia, Damen says the workforce must be retained and further upskilled, employing existing Air Warfare Destroyer personnel and providing additional training and experience in readiness for the SEA 5000 future frigate and SEA 1000 future submarine projects.


In contrast, the requirement in WA is to build upon the current workforce, and re-train personnel from other industries to transform them into a sustainable and capable shipbuilding employee base, challenges that Damen says should be managed and approached in parallel.

The Dutch shipbuilder said its philosophy is to draw on its significant experience around the world in both skills and knowledge transfer, to ensure the requirements of both workforces are achieved without disruption to the production of the OPVs.

In South Australia, Damen said its SEA 1180 bid would see the company work with its partners to ensure that the selected shipbuilders are provided the opportunity to further refine their skills, at the same time as working directly on construction of the first two OPVs.

Proposed initiatives include:

  • Conduct specific training courses focused on shipbuilding;
  • Involvement in Damen’s Technology Centre and Communities of Practice, both of which are focused on the sharing of shipbuilding intellectual property and knowledge across 34 Damen and 40 partner shipyards globally;
  • Working with Australia’s new shipbuilding college to be based in Adelaide,
  • Secondments to Damen’s shipyards in other parts of the world, including several regional nations where Damen has recently been selected to build OPV’s ‘in country’;
  • Additional e-learning training in the Damen systems and processes maximising commonality across the workforce; and
  • Opportunities with Australian universities to complete further formal qualifications and conduct research.

In addressing Minister Pyne’s and the government’s ambitions for a defence export industry, Damen has been exploring whether there are prospects to build other, non-SEA 1180 vessels in South Australia prior to 2020; to provide further opportunity for the current shipbuilding workforce to be retained in Adelaide, in readiness for the future requirements of SEA 5000 and SEA 1000 construction.

“Damen sees a significant advantage in training a large shipbuilding workforce in Western Australia as it will enable an expedited path to developing an Australian cability to export both naval and commercial vessels, while simultaneously providing long-term job security for numerous skilled tradesmen, engineers, naval architects and project managers in the west,” the company said.

They went on to say that Damen will develop the larger, more capable workforce by adding significantly to the core of trained shipbuilding personnel already employed by their Australian shipbuilding partner in Western Australia, and providing those existing employees with even greater exposure to world leading shipbuilding practices.

“Building upon the capability of our shipbuilding partner as a Registered Training Organisation, Damen intends to invest significantly in providing Western Australian future shipbuilding employees with a formal qualification in shipbuilding.”

These formal qualifications are anticipated to be through a combination of introductory courses and shipbuilding related trade courses, with Damen’s teaming partner Forgacs Marine and Defence Pty Ltd looking to assist Damen with training rooms, staff and resources.

“Forgacs’ capability with dedicated training rooms and staff will be supplemented by Damen resources to provide a unique training potential for the future Western Australian shipbuilding workforce,” said Forgacs Marine and Defence managing director Mike Deeks.

Damen also intends to fund scholarships and cadetships, which will further provide Western Australian shipbuilding employees of the future with the technical know-how and hands-on experience to significantly increase the shipbuilding capability within the state. Coupled with that will be the same access to knowledge sharing and online e-learning courses in best practice shipbuilding related applications as will be provided to the shipbuilders in SA.

Under Damen’s plans, training of the WA workforce will begin in 2019, preparing for the 2020 shift of production of OPV’s to the Henderson Shipbuilding precinct south of Perth. This will ensure that a trained local workforce is available to continue the production of the OPV’s in 2020. It is expected that a select number of these WA employees will have time experiencing current production in SA before the transfer of production occurs.

Damen is competing against German company Lürssen, which has also teamed with ASC and Forgacs, and German firm Fassmer, which has partnered with WA-based Austal.