The Enterprise has continued to progress despite the challenges of COVID-19, writes First Assistant Secretary of the National Naval Shipbuilding Office, Andrew Byrne.
In the grip of a pandemic that has affected almost every aspect of Australian life, the naval shipbuilding industry has faced some unique challenges. However, our adaptability in these circumstances has been a testament to the agility and resilience of the sector. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the National Naval Shipbuilding Enterprise remains broadly on course.
The release of the 2020 Force Structure Plan saw the announcement of a sizeable planned investment and expansion of the Enterprise, which will include the acquisition or upgrade of 23 classes of maritime vessels. This will mean more opportunities for Australian shipbuilding industry. Details will be provided in an update to the Naval Shipbuilding Plan, due to be published later this year.
The Government’s investment in the Enterprise and the development of a continuous sovereign shipbuilding capability is already being realised, with the Attack, Hunter, Arafura, Guardian and Cape class programs all advancing well.
Design work on the Attack Class submarine is progressing with a number of contracts awarded for key equipment, while the development of a new submarine construction yard at Osborne North continues.
The Hunter Class Frigate Program remains on track to commence construction of Ship 1 by the end of 2022, with Hunter prototyping on schedule to commence by late 2020. New facilities in the shipyard at Osborne South, where the Hunter Class fleet will be built, are now complete. The modernisation of existing facilities is underway.
Construction of the third Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessel has commenced, with ten of these very capable vessels to be built at the Henderson Maritime Precinct in Western Australia, following the on-time commencement of the first on 27 March 2020. The first two Arafura vessels are being constructed at Osborne South, bridging the gap between the end of the Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyer Program and the commencement of the Hunter program.
The first six of 21 Guardian Class Patrol Boats have been constructed and gifted to Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Fiji. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the training of Pacific Island crews and subsequent handover of new boats, construction continues on schedule and three more boats will be ready for handover before the end of the year. The first of six Cape Class Patrol Boats is also under construction.
With the advancement of these programs and the expansion of the Enterprise, there will be a growing demand for skilled workers, meaning more career opportunities for Australians in shipbuilding. Here in the National Naval Shipbuilding Office, we continue to work with the Naval Shipbuilding College and industry to help ensure there is a pipeline of skilled workers ready to enter the shipbuilding sector in the years ahead.
Andrew Byrne is the First Assistant Secretary of the National Naval Shipbuilding Office within the Department of Defence.