Offshore patrol vessel construction begins in South Australia
Construction has begun on the offshore patrol vessel project in South Australia, which the government hopes will help lessen the ship-building industry's so-called "valley of death".
Minister for Defence Christopher Pyne was on hand at the Osborne shipyards this morning to see the first pieces of steel welded together on two of the twelve offshore patrol vessels, which will form the Navy’s newly named Arafura Class.
“We are providing jobs, investment, infrastructure but most importantly capability for the Navy,” Mr Pyne said.
The project is structured to help bridge the industry's “valley of death”, as work wraps up on the Air Warfare Destroyers.
"I've got every confidence that anything built in this precinct is going to be a great outcome for the men and women of the Navy,” Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, told 9News.
“Any day that you can announce the first of class in a continuous ship-building program that is going to extend longer than the future is fantastic.”
But despite the new build, hundreds of workers at the shipyard have lost their jobs over the past year.
Mr Pyne admitted workers are taking redundancies, but said it was because they “know there will be work for them”.
“We could have allowed that valley of death to extend and have no vessels commissioned.”
The remaining ten vessels will be built in Western Australia from 2020, when workers at Osborne start construction on the future frigates, followed by 12 submarines.
However, the union fears those future projects are too far away and many skilled workers will be lost.
"They can't just afford to stay home, they need to pay their bills so they'll be finding other jobs,” Peter Bauer from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) said.
“If we don't do something about retaining the skills that we currently have in place and are losing, we're going to be struggling to meet that ramp up.”
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