ASC chief: We can build ships continuously


ADELAIDE shipbuilders have reached peak efficiency and are in the perfect position to start a new era of continuous shipbuilding, ASC chief Mark Lamarre says.

The ASC chief held a rare press conference in the Adelaide shipyards on Tuesday to reveal details of ASC’s bid to build the $3 billion Offshore Patrol Vessels.

That project will create up to 400 jobs.

But the minor warship is just the start; it is intended as a ramping up project to ease the way into the $30 billion Future Frigates program, which itself will lead into the $50 billion Future Submarines program.

The Government has said the first two OPVs will be built in Adelaide, then the project will shift to Western Australia along with some of the jobs.

However, even more jobs will be created here with the frigates.

media_cameraASC chief Mark Lamarre at a Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation committee in Canberra last year.

Mr Lamarre said that move to WA might cause a small blip in productivity, but that they would have a headstart thanks to their previous and current work on the Air Warfare Destroyers.

He said the learning curve on any ship project meant that the first one in its class was much more expensive.

“We had some troubles with the AWD program early on,” he said.

“Ultimately we’ll be building the third ship at 40 per cent of the cost of the first.”

The shipbuilders, which had hit cost and schedule blowouts, will meet their budget on the third ship — an achievement that comes after former federal Defence Minister David Johnston said they could not be trusted to “build a canoe”.

“We will have reached worldwide efficiency for complex Aegis warships … that’s an illustration of how keen this workforce is,” Mr Lamarre said.

“We have now proven we can be as efficient … as anyone in the world.”

media_cameraAir warfare destroyer Hobart built by ASC undergoing trials.

There are three groups vying for the OPV project. The Government will announce the winner later this year. ASC is part of two bids.

Yesterday they announced a partnership with Forgacs, which is owned by WA-based Civmec. The partnership has teamed up with both Dutch firm, Damen and German firm, Lurssen. The third bid is from Austal, which have teamed up with another German team, Fassmer.

The Advertiser revealed yesterday that WA-based Austal has been criticised for blowouts and “design deficiencies” in its US arm; Austal says those issues were overblown and have been fixed.

While the entire continuous shipbuilding project is nationwide, WA and SA are the nation’s two shipyards, and the two states are jostling for greater shares of the work.

Yesterday, state Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said ASC was “Australia’s only proven builder of Australian warships”.

He says more than two OPVs would have to be built in Adelaide.

“The commitment was to keep building them until the Future Frigates were in play. It will have to be more than two,” he said.

“Techport is where the ships should be built and Perth and Sydney are where the ships should be sustained.”

He said that on a recent trip to Malaysia, he spoke to all the chiefs of Navy about SA as the major naval shipyard in the southern hemisphere.

“The standard we’ve reached with ship three is world class,” he said.

Originally published as ASC chief: We can build ships continuously

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