The ideal hub to lure engineers to the west Thursday, 04 October 2018

A joint venture between engineering firm Civmec and German shipbuilder Luerssen to build 10 offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and Austal’s contract for 21 guardian-class patrol boats, both in Henderson WA, could see engineers lured to the west instead of South Australia and Victoria.

The Australian Maritime Shipbuilding and Export Group (AMSEG) JV will build 10 of 12 SEA1180 OPVs at Civmec’s facility, south of Perth, as part of a $4 billion contract won by the family-owned 143-year-old Luerssen company last year. The other two OPVs are being built in Adelaide in conjunction with ASC. Construction is expected to commence in November.

Interestingly, Luerssen Australia director and AMSEG chairman, Chris Ritchie, told the AFR Australia is an ideal hub to produce OPVs, smaller frigates, and corvettes for South-East Asia navies, coast guards and other law-enforcement organisations.

He indicated that exports are in the company’s sights and that the Australian OPVs would be the baseline for foreign sales that would help support shipbuilding here. Ritchie revealed that over the next decade, AMSEG intends to become a “fully sovereign shipbuilder”.

Henderson-based Austal is also set to build 21 guardian-class patrol boats for the Australian Government. Chief executive, David Singleton, said there is also interest from South-East Asia to buy the patrol boats or a modified version and that a contract is in the making to build two cape-class aluminium boats for the coast guard of Trinidad and Tobago.

Austal continues to expand overseas, tripling its shipyard in the Philippines where it builds ferries. It is also soon to open a shipyard in Vietnam and is ramping up its San Diego facility. Austal is a major supplier to the US Navy, the only foreign shipbuilder to do so, from its Alabama shipyard, delivering 19 vessels with a further nine on order. Importantly, the intellectual property for Austal’s vessel designs remains with its Australian HQ in Henderson, in WA.  


Image: OPV design by Luerssen.