• Luerssen's OPV80 design for Sea 1180. Credit: Luerssen
    Luerssen's OPV80 design for Sea 1180. Credit: Luerssen

In a surprise twist, the Commonwealth has selected West Australian shipbuilders Austal and Civmec/Forgacs to build 10 of the 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels under the Sea 1180 tender, but with the OPV80 design of German shipbuilder Luerssen, not Fassmer, with which Austal was partnered.

In an annoucement made in Canberra this morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, accompanied by Defence and Defence Industry Ministers Marise Payne and Christopher Pyne and senior ADF leadership said the $3.6 billion program would utilise the building expertise of ASC in Adelaide for the first two vessels, with both Austal and Civmec/Forgacs to share construction of the further 10 vessels at Henderson. The share of the work between Austal and Civmec/Forgacs was subject to negotiation according to Minister Pyne.

ADM Editor Katherine Ziesing visited the Luerssen yards and head office in Germany earlier this year, along with time at the Fassmer yard, on the same river in Bremen. Her coverage of the OPV program to date can be found here.

Company spokesperson Detlef Schlichting confirmed at that time the company was offering a number of options for armament, fit out and various systems to the Commonwealth; he was evasive on the exact design being offered for Sea 1180 although their 80m design was highlighted. 

The company had teamed in a joint venture formed by ASC and Civmec, allowing them access to mature facilities in both states.

Austal had partnered with Fassmer for the build, and given the limited time before steel cut is scheduled in 2018, will be under pressure to adjust to the Luerssen design.

The Fassmer design was well suited to the Australian requirement, with a far superior range to the other offerings (12,000 nautical miles as opposed to 6-8,000 nautical miles), an ice rating, more space for containerised mission modules (3 vs. 2) and a design that was proven in service with Chile and Colombia and required few modifications for Sea 1180 purposes.

ADM will provide further updates to this story as more information comes to hand.

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