The Royal Australian Navy has struck a major contract for a regional maintenance centre in Cairns, the first of four new strategic sites in ports around the country that will sustain a range of vessels.
The federal government unveiled on Thursday a $70 million Defence contract with NORSTA Maritime, which will provide maintenance at the centre.
Defence minister Peter Dutton said the contract would ensure the Navy had the vessels it needed, in the location and at the time it needed.
“Cairns is a major Navy base and a gateway to the Pacific, a strategically important location,” Dutton said.
The Cairns centre is due to be operational by the end of 2022. It will support the Evolved Cape Class Patrol Boats initially before becoming the sustainment hub for the Arafura class offshore patrol vessels – currently under construction.
The Navy’s Wendy Malcolm, head of maritime systems rear admiral, said the regional maintenance centres would overhaul the way the Navy maintained its fleet.
“Each centre will be able to provide a level of maintenance to any surface ship,” Malcolm said.
“Sustaining Navy’s current and future fleet is a long-term endeavour and personnel will be required for decades to come, further supporting local jobs and diversifying the regional economy.”
The contract includes incentives to ensure local and regional small and medium businesses are given a fair opportunity to compete for work.
The government is also planning three more regional maintenance centres, with the next due to be completed in Henderson in WA before mid-2022.
Others are planned for Darwin and Sydney.