Patrick Durrant | Sydney
Earlier this week Civmec/Forgacs and ASC Shipbuilding announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly bid for the build of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for Project Sea 1180.
Both companies have been jointly chosen by two of the three shortlisted designers, Damen and Lürssen, to work with them on the project tender and should either of the two be selected, a Joint Venture (JV) between the two will be established.
Managing Director, Forgacs Marine and Defence Mike Deeks said it was a natural fit for Civmec given ASC's naval shipbuilding experience, as well as its familiarity in dealing with government and Defence.
“The beauty of this is that it brings SA and WA together.”
“What we bring to the table is our fabrication capabilities and our innovative ideas and processes that have been the key to our success in the offshore and maritime industry.”
Deeks also mentioned the plans announced by Civmec late last year to expand its existing facility at Henderson in WA by seven hectares and build a large shipbuilding hall.
“This is part of the equation not only attractive to ASC but also the OPV designers we'll be dealing with,” he told ADM.
Civmec/Forgacs and ASC have their eyes on the long game and Deeks said the domestic market for minor war vessels wouldn't be enough to sustain a continuous shipbuilding industry.
“We have to look towards export and that's why the JV MoU announcement indicated this was also about looking for other opportunities in the future.”
Given the first two OPVs are to be built, as stipulated by the Turnbull Government, in Adelaide, Deeks said this offered advantages for elements of Civmec's workforce to learn alongside the ASC team.
“Similarly, once that construction was completed, the core of the ASC team would then assist with getting our business up and running in the West and then assisting with the remaining builds.”
In an update on the expansion plan, Deeks said major levelling of the site (to a depth of one metre) would occur in the next month and one of the main facilities (the paint and blast shed) would likely start in around three months.
“Acquiring the design approvals for the main shipbuilding hall is a complex process given the fire safety requirements but we hope to commence construction of that before the end of the year.”
Deeks said the MoU was an exciting first step on the path to a major component of the planned national shipbuilding enterprise.
“We're investing in the largest covered shipbuilding facility in Australia and we are partnering with the largest naval shipbuilder in the country – the beauty of this is that it brings SA and WA together. For a long time I've been an advocate for Federal and State politicans to look strategically at how they want defence industry to support ADF capability and to that end this is a step in the right direction for the Federal Government – it would be also be good to see the shipbuilding plan,” Deeks said.
In response to an ADM question on the likely impact of the recent change of WA state government to Civmec's plans, Deeks noted the incoming Labor McGowan Government had released a defence industry policy statement (in stark contrast to the former Barnett Government) prior to the election and said it was encouraging to see former Navy clearance diver Paul Papalia would also oversee a new Defence Issues portfolio.