CCIWA Chief Executive Deidre Willmott has welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s powerful vote of confidence in WA’s superior defence capabilities following the announcement of the offshore patrol vessel (OPV) program contract last week.

The Government confirmed German designer Luerssen as the prime contractor for the $4 billion OPV contract, with 10 of the 12 vessels to be built by Austal and Civmec at Henderson, south of Perth, from 2020.

The hotly contested contract initially saw three shortlisted contenders vying to build the vessels.

Austal joined forces with Germany’s Fassmer, while Civmec/Forgacs and ASC both formed partnerships with Luerssen and Dutch shipbuilder Damen.

In a twist, Austal was included in the deal, with Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne saying the government wanted to use all the resources available to it.

Contract negotiations are expected to take place over the next few months.

Willmott says WA’s defence industry boasts around 180 leading, innovative companies, which excel in all areas of construction, including design, build, maintenance, upgrades, and exports.

“The announcement is welcome recognition from the Government that WA is a national defence leader that is primed to take on future defence opportunities,” she says.

“WA has the capability to make a substantial contribution to the national shipbuilding effort through our superior facilities at Henderson, which is strategically located with direct access to the Indian Ocean and HMAS Stirling – the Royal Australian Navy’s largest base.

“Our skilled workforce is also ready to take on all aspects of the OPV contract, from the design and build to future maintenance and sustainment.”

CCI has played a key role in leading WA’s defence advocacy by founding the WA Defence Industry Council – an initiative to bring together WA’s defence industry to work with Federal and State Governments to promote WA’s elite defence capabilities and competitive advantages.

“The Council’s collective advocacy has already led to WA’s Henderson being named one of Australia’s two shipbuilding hubs, and helped to secure an extra $100 million into WA’s defence infrastructure at HMAS Stirling and the Henderson strip,” Willmott says.

“To further establish WA as a national defence leader, CCI is committed to ensuring WA businesses have access to all supply chain opportunities as the Government continues to roll out its major defence contracts, including the $35 billion Future Frigates program.”

She says the transfer of intellectual property for the design, build, and maintenance of the Future Frigates must be mandated.

“This is the only way to ensure Australia’s future sovereign naval shipbuilding design and maintenance capability meets the unique requirements of our Navy, while driving export revenue, economic growth, and securing more long-term Australian jobs than the Future Frigate program could hope to alone,” Wilmott says.

Civmec Chairman James Fitzgerald says the contract would create hundreds of jobs at its Henderson facility and underpin work at its yard for at least a decade.

Austal Chief Executive David Singleton says the Australian Government has made a commitment to a continuous naval shipbuilding industry and Austal looked forward to playing a role in making this happen.

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