Max Blenkin | Canberra
German shipbuilder Luerssen and its Australian industry partners are offering scholarships to encourage young people to embark on a career in the soon to boom shipbuilding sector.
The 12 scholarships, worth $10,000 each per year, will be offered from next year, subject to Luerssen winning the deal to build the Navy’s 12 new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) under Project Sea 1180.
This project will be the first of the government’s shipbuilding ventures to produce a new vessel for the Royal Australian Navy, with work set to start next year.
A decision on which of the three contenders – Luerssen, fellow German shipbuilder Fassmer and Damen of the Netherlands – will win is expected soon, possibly in conjunction with, or soon after, the Pacific 2017 conference in Sydney early next month.
Although this will be the first of the big shipbuilding projects, and worth up to $4 billion, it’s also the least known. With the Commonwealth specifying the required capability, none of the three contenders have disclosed many details of their proposed candidate vessel.
The 12 new OPVs will replace the Navy 13 existing patrol boats, with larger vessels, around 2,000 tonnes, with greater endurance and better seakeeping than the hard worked Armidale class vessels.
Unlike the aluminium-hulled Armidale class, the new vessels will be made of steel. Each will also be capable of embarking a helicopter.
All three companies produce vessels which would meet that criteria.
Under the Government’s plan, the first two OPVs will be constructed in Adelaide and the other 10 in Henderson, WA. In Australia to promote their bid, company head Peter Luerssen said Luerssen Australia was committed to exceeding Australia’s skilling, warship design, construction and export requirements, as set out in the Naval Shipbuilding Plan.
Luerssen visited Adelaide on Tuesday, announcing the scholarships plan, and Perth on Wednesday, inspecting the new $80 million Civmec shipbuilding facility at Henderson where their vessels would be constructed. This is set to be the largest undercover shipbuilding space in Australia.
“With investment in local infrastructure and skills we can create an innovative sovereign naval shipbuilding capability. Civmec has already returned advanced manufacturing jobs to Australia and in investing in this facility will create even more jobs for young Australians,” he said.
Should Damen win the OPV contract, this facility would also be used to construct their vessels under a similar agreement with Civmec and ASC.
While in the West, Luerssen received some good news – his company has been awarded a €3 billion deal for five further K130-class corvettes for the German Navy.
The new scholarships will be offered by Luerssen Australia and its partners ASC Shipbuilding and Civmec/Forgacs and managed through the peak industry body, the Defence Teaming Centre.
They will cover tuition and study related costs for relevant shipbuilding courses. Applications close mid-February, in time for the start of university and TAFE years. Three of the most promising scholarship students will be offered internships at Luerssen, ASC and Civmec/Forgacs.
“Much like our approach in Europe, which incorporates successful exports, we will set up an export hub within Australia to service this region, which is seeing rapid strategic and military developments. It makes perfect sense for us to be investing in local skills and talent,” Luerssen said.
“We expect the Sea 1180 program to be one way of developing future leaders of Australia’s world-class local industry.”
Mike Deeks, managing director Forgacs Marine and Defence, a Civmec subsidiary, said their investment in the new facility reflected their philosophy that industry not government must do the heavy lifting to ensure the future commercial success of shipbuilding in Australia.
“The Government’s continuous naval shipbuilding program provides an incredible platform for us to create a sustainable naval shipbuilding industry in this country but industry must do its bit to create opportunities and jobs,” he said.