Australia ‘turbocharging’ naval shipbuilding capacity with $4.3 billion investment

The Australian government has decided to invest up to $4.3 billion to deliver Western Australia’s first large-vessel dry berth at the Henderson shipyard to boost naval shipbuilding capacity.

Illustration; Royal Australian Navy

As explained, the Henderson dry-dock will enable the construction and sustainment of large naval vessels in Australia and support the commercial shipbuilding and sustainment market in Western Australia.

Government-owned Australian Naval Infrastructure will oversee the design and build of this nation-building infrastructure, with work to start in 2023 and initial operations to commence in 2028.

The Commonwealth will work closely with the Western Australian Government and industry to develop a comprehensive plan for the defence precinct at Henderson to ensure this investment fully supports national naval shipbuilding enterprise effectively.

“This project is likely to create at least 500 direct construction jobs at its peak and thousands more through local sub-contracts and the national supply chain.  Once completed, this infrastructure will help support at least 2,000 direct shipbuilding jobs at Henderson, particularly as continuous naval shipbuilding in Western Australia comes to fruition as part of the national naval shipbuilding enterprise,” according to the officials.

“This multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment will transform the Henderson maritime precinct into a … shipbuilding powerhouse, and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to naval capability in the West,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Henderson, HMAS Stirling and Fleet Base West all form a key part of our maritime capability and our nation’s security, particularly given the  strategic importance of the Indian Ocean, and will continue to do so for decades to come.”

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton added the project builds on the government’s previous $1.5 billion commitment to infrastructure improvements at HMAS Stirling and the Henderson maritime precinct. 

“This decision will ensure that we can meet the Navy’s future requirements as we undertake the enormous investments in the maritime capabilities we need to keep our nation safe in the decades ahead.”

The infrastructure will also support defence’s $90 million Regional Maintenance Centre due to be operational in Henderson in the second half of 2022 to enable a level of maintenance to be conducted on all surface fleet units, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price emphasized.

Recently, the government revealed its plans to build a new submarine base on the east coast of Australia to support the nation’s new nuclear-powered submarines. The Australian Department of Defence has selected three preferred locations, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Port Kembla.

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To remind, Australia, US and UK signed the AUKUS pact back in September 2021. Under the new partnership, Australia wants to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.

As of 8 February this year, the partners can exchange data under the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA).