Shipbuilding company ASC has started construction on the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) first two offshore patrol vessels (OPV) at Osborne in South Australia.

The Australian Department of Defence’s SEA 1180 project will involve development and delivery of a fleet of 12 OPVs for the navy.

The new offshore patrol boats will be named the Arafura-class and the first ship of the class to enter service in 2022 will be named HMAS Arafura.

Designed to replace the RAN’s 13 Armidale-class patrol boats, the new vessels will offer greater range and endurance, as well as help bolster the protection and security of the country’s borders.

Australian Department of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said that the new SEA 1180 project is expected to generate up to 1,000 direct and indirect job opportunities in the country.

Pyne said: “These new vessels are being built in Australian facilities, with Australian steel and by Australian workers. Only a year ago we announced Lürssen was the preferred tenderer.

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"These new vessels are being built in Australian facilities, with Australian steel and by Australian workers."

“It’s a fantastic achievement to start construction on time and on budget and I’d like to thank everyone involved in the project.”

The remaining ten ships will be built by Civmec and Austal at Henderson in the southern region of Perth, Western Australia.

OPV project is part of the Australian Government’s A$90bn ($64.96bn) continuous naval shipbuilding programme.

Pyne added: “This investment is about more than building ships, submarines and shipyards because it will establish an Australian sovereign capability.

“The continuous shipbuilding programme will act as a catalyst for industry growth which will secure thousands of Australian jobs for decades.

“This is truly a national endeavour, with the Federal Government laying the foundations for an Australia-wide sovereign naval shipbuilding enterprise.”

Last year, the government decided to select German ship designer Lürssen as the prime contractor for the SEA 1180 OPV project.