Defence players eagerly await OPV decision

06 October, 2017

Peter Luerssen believes the Federal Government can meet a mid-2018 target of cutting steel for its $3 billion-plus Offshore Patrol Vessel program, but the German shipbuilding magnate remains in the dark on when he will learn if his team has won the contract.

Luerssen was in Perth recently to lead a group of aspiring shipbuilders – students from Cecil Andrews College – on a tour of Civmec’s shipbuilding facility, which is under construction next door to its Henderson heavy industry site.

Luerssen, Forgacs – Civmec’s defence arm – and ASC Shipbuilding are in a joint bid for the SEA1180 OPV contract for the Royal Australian Navy.

Dutch shipbuilder Damen has also teamed with Forgacs and ASC, while the third contender is Henderson’s Austal, which has team with Germany’s Fassmer.

“They (Defence) want to start cutting steel by early second half of next year,” Luerssen told WA Works on the Henderson tour. “That is still feasible,” he said.

“We just signed a A$3b contract for the German Navy for five more ships and we start cutting steel first up from next year. So, things are possible.

“In terms of decision times, everyone assumes it will be going up the chain sometime at the end of this month, October or November so I assume they will make a decision of who they would like to work with by end of the year latest.”

Luerssen believed there had been an “active exchange of verification and questions” between the Government and all three bidders.

Despite being head of the 140-year-old German shipbuilding company, he may not be first to know whether the bid is successful.

“We have a team and that’s an established line of communication which is part of the process where you establish a certain protocol of communication, which is good because it keeps the process very clean and very transparent.”

However, he’s confident Luerssen’s tender is what the Australian Government is looking for.

“We think we have a very good design. We have built all the ships in Germany so the design is more-or-less ready to go.

“We have done, as everybody else has done, a risk production study to see what kind of modifications need to be done to adapt to Australian health and safety standards.

“These are 87 points, minor points and none of them have an impact on the design of the vessel. None of them is technically demanding or critical so we have a very low risk option for the Commonwealth.”

Forgacs Managing Director Mike Deeks said Luerssen had already build four OPVs for the Brunei Navy, one of which had been to Sydney for inspection by the Australian Navy.

“I’ve crawled all over it as well and it’s a very smart vessel and a proven design because it’s already out there operating in our neighbourhood, so it’s very suited to what we need,” he said.

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