Australia to boost sovereign shipbuilding capability with new Austal partnership

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Image credit: Austal Limited

The Australian Government is boosting the nation’s shipbuilding capability and Western Australia’s defence industry through a new strategic partnership with Austal Limited

The partnership is aligned with a recommendation of the Defence Strategic Review, which highlighted the need for more work to sustain the number of shipbuilders located at Henderson Shipyard in Western Australia. 

As one of two major shipbuilding hubs in Australia, Henderson is an asset of national importance and pivotal to the building and sustaining vessels for the Australian Defence Force, the Australian Department of Defence said in a media release

The partnership between Australian Defence and Austal is expected to secure Henderson’s future as a vital naval shipbuilding complex with the capacity and capability to meet the evolving need for Australia’s Defence Force. 

The project is expected to secure a pipeline of work at Henderson, providing industry with greater certainty and helping secure long-term skilled jobs, infrastructure investment and productivity in the local economy. 

“By securing the future of continuous naval shipbuilding at Henderson, industry will have the certainty it needs to invest in the local workforce and contribute to the West Australian economy for decades to come,” said Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. 

Army’s Landing Craft Medium and Heavy (Littoral Manoeuvre Vessels) will be built at Henderson by Austal, subject to successful commercial negotiations and ongoing performance. 

This initiative is intended to accelerate and expand the delivery of vessels that will provide the Army with the ability to conduct littoral manoeuvre operations, as recommended by the Defence Strategic Review. 

As part of the partnership, Austal will deliver two new Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats for the Australian Navy at an acquisition cost of $157.1 million, replacing and significantly boosting the Navy’s aging at-sea navigation and seamanship training capability

Defence and Austal will also enter into a Heads of Agreement, which will establish the principles and framework that govern the partnership and commence negotiations for a strategic shipbuilder agreement. 

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy said the new partnership represents a new approach to Australian shipbuilding and reflects the national government’s commitment to deliver “a future made in Australia.” 

“A continuous pipeline of work and an efficient, streamlined approach will not only benefit the delivery of Defence capability but create industry confidence to invest in a highly capable shipbuilding workforce in Western Australia,” Conroy said. 

“Australian industry can compete with the best in the world, but for too long has suffered the boom-bust cycle of shipbuilding, undermining productivity and workforce retention. This ends with this strategic partnership.”