The National Shipbuilding Program has reached a milestone in the $350 million Cape Class patrol boat project with the laying of the keel on the first of six new vessels purpose-built for the RAN.
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An important shipyard and naval tradition, the keel laying ceremony marks a key step in construction works.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, however, pointed out that the stage takes on additional significance given the current economic climate.
“The laying of the keel not only initiates the formal construction phase of the build, it also means job creation here in Perth is well underway,” she said.
“This is welcome relief for the local and national economy during a period of economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19."
The project is slated to create work for some 400 commercial shipbuilders based in WA, as well as over 1,200 workers across the wider Australian supply chain.
With the keel-laying ceremony carried out, construction works will continue at Austal's Henderson premises, eventually seeing the patrol boat fleet swell to 16 vessels.
The Cape Class boats will replace the ageing Armidale Class as an interim patrol platform until the Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels are formally commissioned into service.
The first of these new vessels are scheduled for acceptance and handover to Navy in September 2021, with subsequent vessels being delivered through to March 2023.
Austal was first awarded the contract for design, construction and through-life support of eight Cape Class patrol boats for the Australian Border Force in August 2011. The 58-metre aluminium monohulls were delivered between March 2013 and September 2015.
However, six more of the model were ordered by the RAN in May 2020.