• Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price was on hand for the keep laying ceremony [Melissa Price via Twitter]
    Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price was on hand for the keep laying ceremony [Melissa Price via Twitter]

Australia’s Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels program marked an important milestone with a keel-laying ceremony for the third ship in the fleet (Pilbara) – and the first to be built in Western Australia - last week.

The keel- laying ceremony featured young shipbuilders placing a commemorative coin under the keel of the vessel. This naval tradition marks the official start of the ship’s life and is a strong reminder of the importance of the OPV program towards Australia building a sovereign naval shipbuilding capability.

Luerssen Australia the prime contractor and designer for the Arafura Class program is partnering with WA- based Civmec and ASC in SA to build 12 Arafura Class OPVs for the RAN.

Luerssen Australia chief executive officer Jens Nielsen hailed the keel-laying ceremony as another reason for “real optimism” about the future of Australia’s shipbuilding industry.

“This milestone, along with the construction in Civmec’s newly built world-class shipbuilding facility in Henderson, is another reminder that the construction of the Arafura Class represents an incredible opportunity for Australia’s defence industry,” Nielsen said.

“Many Australian small businesses are supporting the program through key components and materials to assist the construction of these world-class vessels and our Australian Industry Capability content continues to be high, currently at 62.7 per cent.”

Executive chairman of Civmec Jim Fitzgerald said today’s ceremony also marks an exciting milestone for Western Australia, with the next ten navy vessels of this class to be built in Henderson, using Civmec’s state- of-the-art shipbuilding facility.

“The Arafura Class program offers an exciting opportunity to showcase Australia’s depth in engineering and related skills,” Fitzgerald said. “We are incredibly proud to be working with Luerssen Australia and so many talented Australians who can look forward to a bright future in the shipbuilding sector.”

“Since construction commenced ahead of schedule in March, the Luerssen and Civmec teams in WA have continued to make significant progress on building the blocks that, when complete, will form a 1,600 tonne 80-metre long OPV,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said.

“Made with Australian steel, cut locally in WA, the OPVs will offer greater endurance to undertake maritime patrol and response duties, as well as support specialist missions.”

Minister Price said the keel laying was of extra significance for her given the Pilbara was in her electorate of Durack.

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