The Arafura class offshore patrol vessels (OPV) are being built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The new OPVs are intended to replace the existing Armidale class and Cape class patrol boats, Huon class coastal minehunters, and Leeuwin class survey ships in service with the RAN.
The program is building a single class of ships to perform the functions of four legacy ships. This has its challenges, notably in terms of ensuring that the ships can be configured for the different missions, but the advantages of a common build of a class of ships in terms of manufacturing, sustainability and possibilities for export are obvious.
The OPVs in the class will be able to perform maritime patrol, response duties, and constabulary missions. The vessels can be customized to perform mine hunting, hydrographic survey, fisheries patrol, disaster relief, and unmanned aerial system (UAS) missions.
The Arafura class vessels will be interoperable with the fleet of Australian Border Force, Australian Defence Force units, and other regional partners to perform a range of missions.
Following the build of the first two vessels in South Australia, the next 10 vessels will be built at the new $80-million shipbuilding facility in Henderson, WA.
The OPV project is the first of the new shipbuilding projects to be built under the framework of a “continuous shipbuilding approach.”
When Lürssen first was award the contract, this was their press release dated November 24, 2017:
The Australian Government today announced Fr. Luerssen Werft GmbH & Co.KG had been selected as the preferred tenderer for the design and prime contractor for the SEA1180 Phase 1 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) program to build the next generation of OPVs for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
The announcement follows an extensive Competitive Evaluation Process and Request for Tender (RFT) evaluation spanning approximately two years which required designers to team with Australian industrial partners to build the twelve OPVs for the ADF.
Under the model announced today, Luerssen will be the prime contractor leading a fully Australian build team comprising experienced shipbuilders as directed by the Australian Government.
Luerssen Chief Executive Officer Mr Peter Luerssen said that SEA1180 Phase 1 was the first major capital expenditure component of the Australian Government’s Continuous Naval Shipbuilding Plan which will see over $90 billion invested in Australian naval capability over the coming decades.
“Australia stands on the brink of the most significant national shipbuilding effort in its modern history, so to be selected to lead a part of this enterprise at this early stage is a tremendous honour and responsibility which we intend to fully meet.
“Our ambition from the start of this process has been clear: to deliver the best vessel for the Royal Australian Navy from a proven low-risk design; to build that vessel by investing in the development of Australian shipbuilding skills; and to open up new opportunities for Australian businesses and suppliers by contributing to a sustainable and globally competitive industrial base.
“We feel we have made good progress so far, including by committing to funding a number of shipbuilding scholarship places for Australian candidates, but now is the time for Luerssen and its partners to roll up the sleeves and get down to work.”
In this video dated December 17, 2018, the CEO of Lürssen explains the Lürssen approach:
In a June 16, 2018 press release, Lürssen provided an update on their partnership in Australia:
One of the world’s leading shipbuilders, Luerssen, has teamed with Australian engineering and construction firm Civmec to create a new force in naval shipbuilding and exports.
The joint venture, Australian Maritime Shipbuilding & Export Group (AMSEG), will partner Luerssen Australia, the prime contractor and designer for the Australian Government’s Offshore Patrol Vessel program, with West Australian-based Civmec, soon to list on the Australian Stock Exchange.
It is intended that AMSEG will play a significant role in the build of ten OPVs in Henderson, Western Australia and in driving an export shipbuilding business that will target opportunities around the region.
The joint venture will be chaired by one of the nation’s foremost naval experts, former Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral (ret) Chris Ritchie.
“This new company will be governed by an Australian board and operate under Australian management to build world class naval vessels in best practice Australian shipyards,” Vice Admiral (ret) Ritchie said.
“We will invest in Australian skills and infrastructure and transfer expertise from SEA1180 prime, Luerssen Australia, to develop capability and support the foundation of a sustainable naval shipbuilding industry that is able to export to the global market.”
Executive Chairman of Civmec and AMSEG Director, Jim Fitzgerald, said the formation of the new company was further evidence of the commitment the SEA1180 industrial team had made to materially growing Australia’s shipbuilding industry.
“This is a huge step forward for Australia’s shipbuilding industry. It is an exciting development that will fully underpin the development of the new state of the art shipbuilding facility at Civmec’s Henderson headquarters,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
Mr Fitzgerald’s comments were echoed by Tim Wagner, Managing Director of Luerssen Defence and AMSEG Director.
“Luerssen has always believed in the vision of the Australian Government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan and wanted to not only be a part of it, but to help make it a reality.”
“We set up Luerssen Australia in May 2017, today we have announced this important joint venture and later this year we will open applications to our program which will fund scholarships and apprenticeships for aspiring Australian shipbuilders. The future of Australian naval shipbuilding looks bright,” Mr Wagner said.
More recently, Lürssen held a ceremony highlights progress in terms of partnership with local firms in the Australian build and support process.
Nigel Pittaway from Australian Defence Magazine provided coverage of this event.
Lürssen Australia celebrated its engagement with local industry on Defence’s $3.6 billion Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel program (Sea 1180 Phase 1), with an award ceremony for its SME supplier base in Perth on January 30.
“On January 31, 2018, almost two years ago, Lürssen signed the Sea 1180 contract with the Commonwealth. We said we would be using Australian shipyards, Australian SMEs, Australian labour (and) Australian steel,” Lürssen Australia CEO Jens Nielsen said.
“And in the two years we have achieved the scheduled design integration milestones in parallel with cutting steel since (the) fourth quarter of 2018. Construction of our 12 vessels is well on the way to ensure a timely handover to support Navy capability.”
Civmec has completed the cutting of steel for the first OPV, which it supplies to ASC in Osborne for ship fabrication and is about halfway through this process for Ship No. 2. The first steel is expected to be cut for Ship No. 3 – the first to be built at Henderson – at the end of March.
“We committed ourselves to a schedule which resulted in us jointly achieving the commencement of construction of OPV No. 1 in November 2018 and a keel laying ceremony on May 10, 2019 – as well as commencement of construction of OPV No. 2, which started on June 4, 2019,” Nielsen told suppliers.
“We are preparing for the OPV No. 2 keel laying ceremony and commencement of construction of OPV No. 3 here in Henderson, where ships three to twelve are being built. And all of this is on time.
“Today is a small step along the pathway we will share together. We are proud of the relationship we have built, and we look forward to future milestones and activities such as achieving ship acceptance and sustainment opportunities. We are committed to Australian industry and we will continue to invest in its capability.”
The following statements from the company provide additional information on Luerssen Australia:
In the video below done in 2017 provides an overview of Luerssen shipbuilding capabilities: