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Problems with border protection ships

CAIRNS26-33 °C

Major Navy patrol boat repair work moves from Cairns to Singapore

Member for Leichardt Warren Entsch, who toured shipyards in Cairns late last year with Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Josh Frydenberg, says the decision to move major maintenance of the Navy’s Armidale-class boats to Singapore won’t hurt Cairns. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
THE Cairns marine industry will take a big hit with a major maintenance contract being lost to Singapore.
The contract related to the navy’s Armidale-class patrol boats, which have been used heavily in the Federal Government’s border protection program.
Major maintenance programs have been undertaken in Cairns and Darwin but it is understood the navy was not happy with cost and timeline blowouts on the boats, including on the four boats based in Cairns.
Division 5 Councillor Richie Bates was furious the local contract had been terminated.
“These boats have worn out prematurely under the high demands of the Liberal Government’s policy against asylum seekers, and now they are handing over their maintenance to a Singapore company,” he said. “Cairns has had extensive experience in boat building and maintenance.
“We promote our tropical expertise around the world and what does our national government do? Give the maintenance of our navy vessels to an overseas company.”
A Defence spokesman confirmed principal contractor Serco had renegotiated its agreement with the Federal Government and would end its Cairns maintenance program in 2017 – five years early.
“Over a number of years, the sustainment of Armidale-class patrol boats has not allowed the fleet to meet the required levels of availability for this important capability,” the spokesman said.
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch insisted the decision would not have a negative impact on Cairns and said the work had been transferred because Singapore had the capacity to do major refits quickly and two at a time.
“They need major refits and they need to do it relatively quickly because the vessels have got to stay in service,” he said. “They (the boats) have done a hell of a lot more than they were ever designed to do.”
Mr Entsch said while major work would now be carried out in Singapore, “routine maintenance” would continue to be done in Cairns and Darwin.
“We just don’t have the capacity to do it in the time that’s necessary.
“This is not a slight on Cairns or on Darwin.”
Mr Entsch also stressed the decision would not affect Cairns’ bid for the $2 billion Pacific Patrol Boat tender, which he hoped would be announced “very early this year”.

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