Shipbuilders on project watch
WA FIRMS HOPING FOR NAVY WORK
THE beleaguered South Australian ship building industry received a boost last week, but it remains unclear if WA will benefit from a 20-year, $89 billion program to build warships, patrol boats and submarines announced by the Federal Government on Tuesday.
South Australia was the big winner, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott announcing the country’s future frigates would be built in the state, with a competitive evaluation process to begin in October.
The Government also announced it would push forward construction of its replacement patrol boats, to commence in 2018.
The “third major pillar” of its plan is the SEA 1000 submarine program, with France, Germany and Japan competing for the contract.
While the Government did not mention work at Henderson’s Australian Marine Complex last week, Australian Manufacturing Worker’s Union state secretary Steve McCartney said keeping work in Australia was a start.
“If navy ships are being built in Adelaide, this is usually a good sign for WA manufacturing,” he said. “Anything is better than sending this offshore, however the devil will be in the detail.”
Mr McCartney said he was chasing confirmation the vessels would be designed and built in Australia, not just assembled from European or Japanese parts.
“These ships are made from modules, which means there’s no technical reason WA couldn’t do some of this work,” he said.
“A 20-year pipeline for South Australia must come with opportunities for the rest of Australia to get into the supply chain.”
WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds said underperforming states, including South Australia, needed to reform and become more competitive.
“Major defence projects, like the procurement of naval vessels must be awarded on merit, and states should not rely on these projects as yet another form of economic subsidy,” she said.
Local ship builder Austal, which counts the US Navy among its clients, remained positive.
Chief executive Andrew Bellamy said last week WA was well positioned to deliver Australia’s offshore patrol vessels.
“There are great opportunities in both the future frigate and the offshore patrol vessel programs for Australian shipbuilders, including in WA where the local industry has built all the Commonwealth’s patrol boats for the past 17 years as well as supporting major upgrades to the Anzac Frigates and sustainment of the Collins submarines,” he said.