Becoming a supplier for Dutch shipbuilding giant Damen will open doors to global opportunities and the defence industry prospects have never been stronger in Australia, says Damen representative Mark Todd.

Todd will give a rundown of supply chain opportunities for WA businesses at CCI’s WA Defence Industry Conference on Friday.

Damen is one of three Offshore Patrol Vessel designers – along with German shipbuilders Fassmer and Luerrsen – eagerly awaiting the Federal Government’s announcement of who will build 12 OPVs for the Royal Australian Navy.

The 12 SEA 1180 OPVs – 10 of which will be built in WA – will replace the 13 Armidale Class Patrol Boats, with construction set to start next year in Adelaide for the first two, before moving to WA for the final 10.

Todd expects an announcement in November, with the successful bidder required to work with Australian shipbuilders on the $3 billion project. If Damen or Luerrsen is successful they will team with Forgacs and ASC, while Fassmer has formed a partnership with Austal.

“We haven’t heard anything on the OPVs but wish we had. We’re pretty sure it’s not until November. We don’t think there will be any announcement before the conference,” Todd told CCI’s The Guide.

“I’d love it if there was.”

Todd will talk up Damen’s offerings as a loyal supply chain contractor at the conference.

The company was started by two brothers in the Netherlands in 1927 who started building ships in a shed next door to their home. It’s delivered five OPS since September last year – two to Indonesia, two to the Middle East and a training vessel to the RAN last year; and has a further 15 under construction.

“Damen is a family company effectively, which just happens to have 34 shipyards around the world and builds 250 ships a year.

“By doing that they have been loyal to their suppliers and supply chain back in the Netherlands. And we wouldn’t expect Damen to be any different here.

“If you want to work with us we can work with you to set up long term relationships as well as contractual arrangements.”

Damen would establish its Australian a headquarters in Perth if it’s named the successful OPV contender, Todd says.

“At the moment we have established an office in Brisbane. We looked at establishing an office in Perth and we might but we’ll wait until we understand the environment first.”

 Todd, who served with RAN for 24 years, is confident in the future of the defence industry for WA.

“It’s never been better. In my life, I can’t remember it being so strong. It’s guaranteed stable employment for the future because of the naval shipbuilding and then from a ship maintenance perspective it is going to provide employment for plenty.

“The opportunity to have the naval shipbuilding program in place will be fantastic for the export capability as well.

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