I rise today to celebrate the ceremonial keel-laying of the first Arafura class offshore patrol vessel. I was proud to witness this important milestone on behalf of the Premier last Friday 10th of May 2019, at the Osborne Naval Shipyard. This event marked the official start to the life of the first of two naval offshore patrol vessels to be built in South Australia. The commemorative ceremony signifies the commendable progress made by the Arafura Class shipbuilding program thus far.
Last year, the Federal Liberal Government committed to a $90 billon shipbuilding program to modernise and strengthen Australia’s Naval forces. The program aims to build a strong and sustainable sovereign Australian shipbuilding industry over the coming decade. It is a great initiative set to benefit the South Australian economy through the creation of jobs and a new shipbuilding industry. The program has already seen the employment of over 150 shipbuilders on the Arafura Class program, looking to create upward of 600 indirect jobs in South Australia over the coming decade. In addition, upgrades to the Osborne Naval Shipyard and the commissioning of nine Hunter class frigates, are set to create and sustain over 5,000 jobs across BAE Systems and the wider Australian defence supply chain over the course of the project.
Arafura class is named after the Arafura Sea between Australia and Indonesia. The name acknowledges the importance of the coastal regions around Australia and their significant role in the nation’s security and economic prosperity. It also honours the significance of the northern Australian waters to Australia’s maritime security and the importance of the continuing work of the Navy across the Top End. The Arafura Class program marks the commencement of continuous naval shipbuilding in Australia, which will see major warships and submarines constructed in Osborne, South Australia, and other ships in Henderson, Western Australia.
Construction of the first of 12 Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels commenced last November as part of the initiative, headed up by prime contractor Luerssen Australia and shipbuilding subcontractor ASC. Notably, the project commenced on time and thanks to the collective efforts of defence industry counterparts and Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, the project is currently tracking ahead of schedule and on budget. Luerssen Australia Chairman Tim Wagner said that as the prime contractor and designer for the program, they are delighted with progress so far. He remains confident that all 12 vessels will be delivered on time and on budget for the Royal Australian Navy.
The keel laying ceremony is a long-standing naval tradition which, in effect, marks the birth of a ship. The ceremony invites good luck in the construction of the ship, throughout its life. The event typically proceeds with the most senior naval representative laying a coin under the keel before it is laid, together with the sponsor or youngest tradesperson of the shipyard.
On Friday, the commemorative coin of the first Arafura Class offshore patrol vessel was placed under the keel by Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, accompanied by the two youngest shipyard workers: Boilermaker, Kane Ramsay and Document Editor, Lauren Pitman. The coin was placed on a wooden block and laid under the keel. The block was then hammered into place by the young shipyard workers and the Chief of Navy, which created a permanent, commemorative imprint of the coin on the wooden block and signified the official “laying” of the keel.
The Master of ceremonies, Peter Croser, Assistant Secretary Ships Acquisition Specialist Ships at CASG Defence Department, paid special thanks to the ship builders and employees on the project. A large number of workers attended the event despite being on a rostered day off. The turnout of the Osborne workers goes to show the level of dedication, commitment and passion for the shipbuilding industry and the Arafura project. It further emphasises the success and benefits that strengthening defence industry has already brought to our great State.