ASC upgrades Shipbuilding facilities in Adelaide to launch $35 billion naval project

Shipbuilding in South Australia is proving a bright spark in the economy with the first new construction shed for the nation’s $35 billion Hunter Class Frigate program now ready for action. Work is almost finished in the $500 million upgrade of Adelaide’s new high-tech frigate shipyard with five new structures rising from its Port River site.

Building 20 is part of the $500 million upgrade of the state’s Osborne shipyard and its handover to ASC Shipbuilding is now underway, keeping plans well on track for work on the nation’s nine anti-submarine warfare frigates to start this year.

Type 26
Type 26 Global Combat Ship. A variant of this ship will be built at Osborne Shipyard. Source BAE Systems

ASC Shipbuilding director Jim Cuthill said five new sheds in the shipyard were being fitted with cutting-edge equipment and the site’s builders Australian Naval Infrastructure and Lend Lease are on track for a complete handover in July.

“At the moment about 70 per cent of our workforce is still working from home and we haven’t really missed a beat with the work that we are doing,” Cuthill said.

Workers employed on the frigates project run by ASC Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of defence giant BAE Systems Australia, are now just over 600 with Cuthill saying this would be ramping up from July to hit about 1000 by the end of 2020.

Cuthill said Building 20 is where construction work for the frigates will begin, as the program kicks off with five prototype blocks of the ships being made in the first two years.

The planned build would see mainly Australian steel first enter the highly automated fabrication hall to be cut and welded into the 75 units that will make up each of the frigates. Work then moves onto Building 21 on the site, the block outfit hall, where the units have piping, cable layers, heating ventilation and air conditioning added.

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In a streamlined plan, the blocks are then shifted to the largest construction shed on site. Building 22 soars above the nearby Port River, this structure is 170m long, about 80m high and about 50m long, and is where the blocks are fitted together to make the ships. Building 22 at the Osborne Shipyards can accomodate two ships side by side.

“First of all we do more outfitting on the blocks in this build, we put in accommodation and the interior outfit and we put in equipment,” Cuthill said. They are then joined together and “if you went into the hall toward the end of the process you would basically see an entire ship inside except the top mast,” Cuthill said.

The almost completed frigates will be moved outside onto the slipway for the mast and combat system to be fitted before the ships are put into the water for testing.

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