Malcolm Turnbull just confirmed Tony Abbott’s shipbuilding pledge for Adelaide

The Hobart under construction in Adelaide. Image courtesy of Grant Nowell Photography/AWD Alliance

South Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry received another small boost today with the Turnbull government confirming his predecessor Tony Abbott’s announcement last year that construction on 12 offshore patrol vessels (OPV) will begin in Adelaide in 2018.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says the decision will create more than 400 direct jobs and comes as work on three Hobart class air warfare destroyers ends, with more than 1000 jobs set to go.

Construction of the OPVs, worth $3 billion, is scheduled to begin in 2018, partly addressing concerns about a looming “valley of death” for workers in Australian shipbuilding before the construction of nine “future frigates” begins in Adelaide in 2020.

Eight months ago, shortly before he was deposed by Turnbull, Abbott announced the plan, bringing forward their construction in a bid to quell the backlash from a broken election promise to build 12 new submarines in Adelaide.

In re-announcing the decision today, the government said three companies has been short-listed for the offshore patrol vessels design: Damen of the Netherlands, and two German firms, Fassmer and Lurssen.

Construction of the OPVs will move to Henderson, Western Australia in 2020 when the $35 billion future frigate build begins in Adelaide. The government says the frigate program will directly create more than 2000 jobs.

Three companies –BAE Systems with the Type 26 Frigate; Fincantieri with the FREMM Frigate, and Navantia with a redesigned F100 — have been short-listed for that design.

Meanwhile, Austal Ships Pty Ltd in Western Australia is the government’s preferred tenderer to construct and maintain up to 21 replacement Pacific patrol boats, estimated to be worth more than $500 million. Austal’s plan includes maintenance from Cairns, Queensland, valued at a further $400 million over the life of the boats.

Government-owned Adelaide shipbuilder Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) – is currently completing three Hobart class destroyers. The first boat, Hobart, hit the water last year and is now 92% complete, with combat systems recently activated and sea trials set to begin shortly. The Brisbane is 75% complete and will launch in the coming year, while the Sydney is 49% complete.

Cost blowouts and delays in that project led then defence minister David Johnston to declare that he wouldn’t trust ASC “to build a canoe”.

The outburst cost the minister his job, but also confirmed the ASC would miss out on the contract to build 12 new replacement submarines for the Collins class, worth at least $20 billion, despite pledges by the former Abbott government to the contrary.

In today’s statement, Malcolm Turnbull’s office said the government was committed to maximising the opportunities for the Australian Defence industry to participate in the shipbuilding programs.

Companies in Germany, France and Japan are currently bidding for Australia’s new submarine fleet.