WA Set to Build Navy Patrol Boats

Perth-based shipbuilder Austal is poised to win a major defence contract from the Federal Government as it builds its case to secure a bigger multibillion-dollar warship program.

With the future of WA’s shipbuilding industry hanging in the balance,The West Australian understands that the company’s Henderson shipyards are likely to be asked to build more Cape Class patrol boats.

The contract could be announced as early as next month to coincide with Malcolm Turnbull’s first visit to WA as Prime Minister on December 9.

Defence insiders said the expansion of the Cape Class patrol boat fleet, which would likely begin with an immediate order for two, would allow Austal to keep its 600-strong workforce busy as it prepares its bid for the coming Offshore Patrol Vessel build, beginning in 2018.

Austal, which has been speaking to the three bidders for a $30 billion submarine contract, is also frontrunner to build 20 Pacific Patrol Boats — a contract worth about $2 billion, including maintenance over 30 years.

Austal is a world leader in cutting-edge aluminium-hulled warships, supplying the US Navy with trimarans from its Alabama shipyard.

But the Defence Department is yet to be convinced about aluminium warships, despite Austal’s multibillion-dollar American export success.

Austal believes it would be able to build the 20 Pacific Patrol Boats out of steel — demonstrating to Defence it would be able to build bigger warships like the OPVs out of the same material.

Senior Defence industry insiders believe former prime minister Tony Abbott “misspoke” when he said the OPV contract would likely begin in Adelaide.

In the longer term, Austal may play a major role in the future submarine contract by teaming with a major boatbuilder such as Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

The Abbott government had promised to build up to 12 submarines in Adelaide before the Federal election but then favoured handing the contract to Japan.

After Mr Abbott came close to being rolled as PM in February, he promised South Australian MPs that the subs would be subject to a “competitive evaluation process” and local builders given the opportunity to bid.

Source: The West Australian