defence connect logo



Major milestone for Navy’s multibillion-dollar OPV program

Major milestone for Navy’s multibillion-dollar OPV program

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, have welcomed another major milestone in the delivery of the Royal Australian Navy’s future Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, AO, have welcomed another major milestone in the delivery of the Royal Australian Navy’s future Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels.

Minister Reynolds and Minister Price have welcomed the next stage in the government's $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding program with the ceremonial keel laying of the second Arafura Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in Adelaide.

The keel laying is an important shipyard and naval tradition that brings good luck to the build of the ship and the life of the vessel by placing a coin under the keel.


Minister Reynolds said the keel laying reinforces the continued progress and ongoing success story of this Morrison government’s $90 billion continuous shipbuilding endeavour in Australia.

“The Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels are larger than the Armidale Class patrol boats currently in service with the Royal Australian Navy, and will offer greater endurance and capability for patrolling Australia’s maritime borders,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Over the past 10 months, Lürssen Australia alongside ASC Shipbuilding have contributed an enormous effort to build and commence consolidation of the keel blocks, which when complete, will be part of a 1,600-tonne ship. Defence and industry are working closely to support our sovereign shipbuilding programs and Australian jobs in these challenging times, in a way that is safe for employees and the community.”

Minister Price welcomed the achievement, echoing Minister Reynolds’ statements.

“This project is estimated to create around 600 jobs involving more than 300 small and medium businesses, reinforcing the Morrison government’s commitment to maximising Australian industry involvement in our $90 billion shipbuilding program,” Minister Price said.

Commodore Steve Tiffen, Director General, Naval Construction Branch officiated on behalf of the Chief of Navy at the Osborne Naval Shipyard ceremony in the absence of official guests due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The ceremony involved one of the youngest and most senior shipbuilders, Evyenia Kontakos, fourth-year apprentice boilermaker and welder and Larry Lavallee, OPV Block Construction Manager, in the Osborne Naval Shipyard placing a commemorative coin under the keel of the vessel, followed by Commodore Steve Tiffen wedging the coin under the keel.

Jens Nielsen, chief executive of Luerssen Australia and project director for SEA1180 thanked the ASC workforce for helping achieve this significant milestone.

“The laying of the keel for the second offshore patrol vessel marks another program milestone and is testament to the collaborative, proactive nature of the construction parties. While we celebrate this milestone, we also celebrate progress on the first vessel as both ship halves have now moved to the common user facility for consolidation into one hull,” Mr Nielsen said.

ASC General Manager Shipbuilding, Schemko Bialek, said today’s celebrating today’s traditional milestone and the Arafura Class shipbuilding program is a strong example of successful collaboration in naval shipbuilding.

“As we celebrate the Keel Laying of the second vessel, I am proud of the continued progress on the program and the hard work and collaboration of the participants and I’d like to acknowledge the experienced workforce of ASC Shipbuilding, who are carrying out the shipbuilding work on the program, under contract to ASC.”

The project also highlights Australian industry’s ability to deliver on schedule with construction on the first offshore patrol vessels being built in Western Australia commencing ahead of schedule.

VADM Noonan announced that the vessel will be commissioned as HMAS Eyre when it comes into operational service in early 2023.

“The next four OPVs will be named HMAS Pilbara, HMAS Gippsland, HMAS Illawarra and HMAS Carpentaria,”  VADM Noonan said.

Two OPVs are being built by ASC Shipbuilding at Osborne Naval Shipyard, setting the foundation of continuous shipbuilding prior to prototyping commencing on the Hunter Class Frigate Program in 2020.

SEA 1180 Phase 1 OPVs will replace and improve upon the capability delivered by the 13 Armidale Class patrol boats by acquiring 12 new vessels, which will be known as the Arafura Class when they enter service from 2022.

The primary role of the OPV will be to undertake constabulary missions and the OPV will be the primary ADF asset for maritime patrol and response duties. A competitive evaluation process (CEP) commenced in late 2015 and concluded with the signing of a contract with Lürssen Australia on 31 January 2018.

Lead ship HMAS Arafura, named after the Arafura Sea in northern Australia, is currently under construction at the ASC Shipyard in Osborne, South Australia.

The project will move to Henderson in Western Australia in 2020 where 10 OPVs will be built by Civmec in partnership with Lürssen Australia. It is estimated the $3.6 billion SEA 1180 project will create around 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Lürssen is a global leader in designing and building ships of the highest quality for demanding customers all over the world. The German company beat out bids from Dutch company Damen, which was also partnered with ASC and Civmec, as well as German company Fassmer, which was in a joint venture with Austal, for the SEA 1180 project.

Civmec is an integrated, multi-disciplinary construction and engineering services provider to the oil and gas, metals and minerals, infrastructure, and marine and defence sectors.

Headquartered in Henderson, WA, Civmec has regional offices in Broome (WA), Darwin (Northern Territory), Newcastle and Sydney (NSW), and Gladstone (Queensland).

Stephen Kuper

Stephen Kuper

Steve has an extensive career across government, defence industry and advocacy, having previously worked for cabinet ministers at both Federal and State levels.