The Australian Government has announced the start of construction on the first offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) under the continuous naval shipbuilding programme.

As part of the $90bn SEA1180 OPV programme, the new vessel will be the third of 12 Arafura class OPVs, and the first to be built at the Civmec shipyard in Henderson, Western Australia.

Construction of the first two vessels is being carried out by Luerssen Australia and the Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC) in Adelaide.

Luerssen Australia and Civmec will construct the remaining ten OPVs.

The prime contractor for the programme is Luerssen Australia and the company will work in collaboration with shipbuilding partners Civmec and ASC OPV Shipbuilder in South Australia.

When ready for operation, the ships will replace the Armidale Class vessels and Cape Class patrol boats in service since 2005. The new OPV will have improved capability.

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The naval shipbuilding programme is expected to generate jobs and enhance Australia’s industrial skill base.

Australia Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said: “This government’s investment in Australia’s naval shipbuilding programme demonstrates our commitment to strong border protection over greater distances than is currently possible, and our commitment in the local economy and creating more jobs for Australian workers.

“Today’s milestone reinforces the OPV programme is on schedule to deliver the capability for the RAN when the first ship commences service in 2022.”

Under the programme, the capacity and workers’ skills for the construction and maintenance of Australia’s sovereign maritime capability will be improved.

Australia Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said: “The Arafura programme is creating jobs across the supply-chain, and I have heard first-hand from over 100 Aussie businesses about how they are benefiting from being an essential part of construction.

“I congratulate Luerssen, Civmec and their entire teams for exceeding their commitment to Australian Industry Capability, which is having substantial positive flow-on effects right across Australia, particularly during this difficult time as we all manage Covid-19.”