French shipbuilder DCNS says up to 2000 ASC workers can transfer from air warfare destroyer project to future frigates

UP TO 2000 ASC workers will be able to transfer straight from the air warfare destroyer project to the future frigates, a top contender for the multi-billion dollar project says.

French shipbuilders DCNS are hopeful the Government will pick their FREMM warship to be built in Adelaide from 2020. The project will be worth up to $20 billion.

The Advertiser was invited on board the brand-new FREMM Languedoc in Lorient, France, on Wednesday.

It was the first time Australian journalists have been on the ship that would form the basis of an Australian version of a replacement for the ANZAC frigates.

France is up against other countries including the UK, Germany and Italy. Italian shipbuilders Fincantieri have been in Adelaide this week spruiking their larger version of the anti-submarine warfare-capable FREMM.

DCNS Director of Strategy and Communications Brent Clarke said the delays on the AWD project had the fortunate side effect of ensuring more people don’t lose their jobs.

“(The Government) want to cut steel in 2020, so with the delays to AWD it will work out because the workforce won’t have to roll off as quickly,” he said.

“The delays basically mean you don’t have to ramp your workforce down then ramp it back up.”

The stop-start nature of shipbuilding in Australia is blamed for its ongoing issues with budget and timeline blowouts, and the industry has been calling for a continuous build to ensure Australia maintains shipbuilding skills and sustains the workforce.

In August former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a $39 billion continuous surface ship build, bringing forward the construction of the frigates by three years and the Offshore Patrol Vessels by two.

That timeline shift, which has contributed to the delay in the much-anticipated Defence White Paper, will fully close the gap between the end of the AWD and the start of the frigate build.

“In terms of jobs our estimation would be the current workforce working on the AWDs would roll straight onto (the frigates),” Mr Clarke said.

The Government will pick three shipbuilders from the current shortlist to put through a competitive evaluation process.

DCNS is also bidding for the $50 billion Future Submarines project through a CEP. Deputy Chief Executive Officer Marie-Pierre de Bailliencourt said they were “very happy” with the CEP, and emphasised that the submarine process was very different to the frigate process.

“It’s about building a strategic partnership; it’s more about getting to know you, getting to understand your operational needs,” she said.

France is competing against Germany and France for the submarine project.

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The Adelaide Advertiser
15 October 2015