Shipbuilder eager for work

Locally, Austal ” which also has a defence shipyard in Mobile, Alabama and a commercial shipyard in Balamban, Philippines ” is contracted to deliver eight new 58-metre Cape class patrol boats to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service by mid-2015.

Recently the company announced it was awarded a $125 million contract to design and construct two 72-metre high- speed support vessels for an unnamed customer in the Middle East.

Work on the first vessel will commence this year, with both set to be delivered by the end of 2016.

Despite being set for work in the interim, chief executive Andrew Bellamy said Austal was already progressing contracts for new vessels after current obligations and would ‘absolutely’ put its hand up to replace the Armidale Class Patrol Boats fleet.

The current boats have come under scrutiny in recent times due to engine room cracking and Navy chief Vice Admiral Ray Griggs said Defence was considering replacing its Armidale Class, as highlighted in last year’s defence white papers.

‘If the Federal Government decided to implement an early replacement program for the Armidale Class then Austal would certainly be able to manage the additional design and construction task at its Henderson shipyard,’ Mr Bellamy said.

‘Running the start of an Armidale replacement program directly behind the completion of the Cape Class construction program would provide significant benefits for both Treasury, in terms of cost savings, and the Austal workforce in terms of employment continuity.’

Joining the push last week was the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, with national assistant secretary Glenn Thompson saying any new patrol boats must be Australian made.

‘The recent defence white papers show that Australia will need more defence ships in the future,’ he said.

‘Now is the time for the Government to outline how, where and when these ships will be built.