ASC built six Collins Class submarines (above) in Adelaide in less than 14 years.
01 March 2015
A former ASC executive has defended the company's capability to build the nation's next fleet of submarines in Adelaide, saying any criticism of the current fleet's delivery should be directed at overseas suppliers.The Federal Government is yet to decide where the submarines will be built, but has listed France, Germany and Japan as contenders for the contract.
Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said the Government would seek proposals from potential partners looking at options to either design and build overseas, in Australia or a hybrid approach through a "competitive evaluation process".
But there were no guarantees the submarines would be built or designed in Australia.
Hans Ohff was the managing director of ASC from 1993 to 2002, and said ASC proved its capability when it built six Collins Class submarines in Adelaide in less than 14 years.
"It's a tremendous achievement that we've attained in Adelaide," he said.
"Adelaide has proven, ASC has proven, that they are very, very capable of building submarines, full stop."
He said much of the subsequent criticism of the fleet's delivery and performance should be laid at the feet of suppliers around the world, not the company charged with putting it all together.
"During the construction phase, a first-of-class large ocean-going submarine was designed; a Brownfield site cleared and decontaminated; the ASC shipyard was established in Adelaide and a workforce in excess of 1,500 men and women mobilised; detailed fabrication drawings prepared; materials procured; and sub-contractor and vendor networks were established," he said.
"During this period, the principal contractor, ASC, had to deal with under-performing combat system vendors, sub-standard diesels, and unacceptable quality components sourced from all over the globe.
"This remains a remarkable achievement, reflecting well on the capacity and performance of the privately owned and operated Australian naval ship building industry, and unequalled anywhere in peacetime."
But he said ASC would need international cooperation to complete the project.
"When we built the Collins Class we had the Swedes to provide the principal design, the procurement and the construction so of course we need overseas capability in order to assist us," Mr Ohff said.
Work for Australians could be 'years away'Mr Andrews said there would be more than 500 new high-skill jobs in Australia for the life of the submarine program, decades into the future.
But Mr Ohff said if the Australian workforce did not have any involvement during the construction phase of the project, it could take up to 10 years for any work to be created in Australia.
"To build the submarines will take at least 25 years, if we are building 12 submarines, let's say 18 years if we are building eight," Mr Ohff said.
"The first one will not be delivered before 2025 so in between of course we wouldn't have any activity for the Adelaide workforce if the submarines aren't being built in Australia and they certainly should be.
"I am strongly defending that point."
Mr Ohff was also sceptical of the number of new jobs promised by the Government.
He said it would take a national workforce of 4,000 to 5,000 people to build the fleet, including at least 1,500 in Adelaide.
The Government said it expected significant work would be undertaken in Australia during the build phase, including combat system integration, design assurance and land-based testing.
"There will be significant opportunities arising from the support and maintenance of the submarine for decades," Mr Andrews said.
"In dollar terms, this often accounts for two-thirds of the investment."
ASC currently employs 2,400 people, whose futures in the industry remain unclear.