Government floats plan for new navy ships

Forty-two naval ships large and small will be constructed in South Australia and Western Australia in a series of deals the federal government predicts will create more than 2500 jobs for decades to come.


But the biggie is still under wraps – who will build 12 new submarines and where?

There is speculation the answer could be announced later in April and certainly before a likely election on July 2.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed on Monday the first of a dozen new Offshore Patrol Vessels will be built in Adelaide from 2018, with production then transferring to WA to make way for construction of nine Future Frigates from 2020.

The first big winner is WA shipbuilder Austal, chosen to build up to 21 new Pacific Patrol Boats which will be gifted to regional nations to replace ageing vessels donated between 1987 and 1997.

Mr Turnbull said the coalition was getting on with rebuilding a naval shipbuilding industry which Labor let languish in government.

“We’re ensuring our navy has the vessels that will keep us secure and we have an industry that will deliver us the support and the capabilities that our navy will need,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Turnbull announced:

* Three shipbuilders, Damen of the Netherlands and Fassmer and Lurssen of Germany, have been short-listed to produce designs for OPVs which will replace 13 Armidale-class patrol boats.

They will be larger than the 300-tonne Armidales which have proved too small and too fragile for constant border protection operations.

The project is worth $3 billion and will create 400 jobs.

* Three shipbuilders, BAE Systems of the UK with its Type 26, Fincantieri of Italy with its FREMM and Navantia of Spain with an updated F100, have been shortlisted for the Future Frigates. The winner will be announced in 2018.

They will replace eight Anzac frigates from the mid-2020s in a project worth $35 billion, creating more than 2000 jobs.

* Austal will build up to 21 Pacific Patrol Boats at its yard at Henderson. They are small vessels, around 160 tonnes. Construction, worth $500 million, will create 130 jobs.

* Long-term support of the Pacific boats, worth another $400 million, will be undertaken in Cairns, north Queensland.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said building the first OPVs would allow the state’s shipbuilding industry to avoid job losses from the so-called “valley of death”, the period between end of the Air Warfare Destroyer project and the start of work on Future Frigates.

“We now have a commitment that gives us a chance to fill that valley of death. That means continuous shipbuilding activity,” he told reporters.

But SA independent senator Nick Xenophon said the OPVs, Future Frigates and submarines could all be built in his state and he will be pressing that case.

To do otherwise would be economic vandalism because relocating production to WA could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This doesn’t make sense,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said giving the work to two shipyards, in SA for major vessels and WA for minor vessels, actually made considerable sense.

“While this strategy is likely to add cost to the OPV program, it will nonetheless provide scope to share the workload across the nation,” he said in a statement.