Demonstrating the rapid progress of the Cape Class Patrol Boat Program, Austal today hosted a keel-laying ceremony for the first of eight high performance patrol boats it is building for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
Keel-laying traditionally marks the first significant milestone in a ship’s construction. Historically this was the “laying down” of the main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Austal’s advanced shipbuilding techniques means fabrication of ship modules begins well before they are actually joined. So today Austal celebrates keel-laying when modules are brought together for final assembly.
Although Austal’s design and manufacturing approach is thoroughly modern, the ceremony retained long held shipbuilding traditions. This included placing specially minted coins under a keel block as a symbol of good fortune and to bless the ship. These coins will be removed just prior to the patrol boat’s launch which is scheduled for later this year.
Coins were placed by Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon. Jason Clare MP; Customs and Border Protection Chief Executive Officer Mr Michael Carmody; and Austal Chief Executive Officer, Mr Andrew Bellamy. Austal also invited Mr Clare to authenticate the keel by marking his initials on part of the boat’s aluminium structure. He was assisted by Richard Taylor, Austal’s Apprentice of the Year for 2011, who has now completed his apprenticeship and is working as a fabricator on the Cape Class program.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Bellamy said the Cape Class Patrol Boat Program was demonstrating Austal’s broad capability and world leadership in the defence field.
“Like our US Navy projects, this program shows that Austal can do more than design and manufacture world-class ships. We are also taking the prime contracting role and using in-house expertise to develop and integrate sophisticated electronic systems for command, control and communication. We are also building on our existing capabilities to establish and operate a comprehensive and effective in-service support system for the fleet,” Mr Bellamy said. “This total solution capability represents the future of our Australian business, as we continue to expand and enhance the strategic industry capability necessary to meet the current and future defence needs of Australia and other nations.”
Mr Bellamy said the fact that Austal had been awarded the contract after a rigorous, open international tender process by a highly experienced and meticulous customer reflected the company’s ability to successfully compete in the global market.
“This is the Australian Government getting the best possible value regardless of supplier nationality, and that’s the basis upon which we secured this work. The fact that we are on track to deliver that capability, as promised, is a credit to all involved. It reflects the skills and hard work of our staff, many of whom bring invaluable experience from previous government contracts carried out both here in Australia and at our US shipyard,” he said.
Construction of the first Cape Class Patrol Boat will continue in accordance with schedule, with launch due in December this year prior to sea trials and delivery to Customs and Border Protection in March 2013. Austal’s eight year support contract for the fleet encompasses a full range of intermediate and depot level maintenance activities.
The Cape Class Patrol Boats will play a significant role in protecting Australia’s borders from multiple maritime threats, and have been designed to have greater range, endurance and flexibility, as well as enhanced capability to operate in more severe sea conditions than the current Customs and Border Protection fleet. The aluminium monohulls can operate at 25 knots and have a range in excess of 4000 nautical miles. Each can undertake simultaneous operations with two embarked 7.3 metre rigid hulled response vessels.
Naval Today Staff , June 8, 2012; Image: Austal