Moving submarine maintenance to WA not in national interest: report

A report commissioned by the South Australian government and produced by Flinders University has found that moving submarine maintenance to Western Australia would not be in the national interest.

Currently, full cycle docking of Australia’s submarine fleet, when submarines undergo their most extensive maintenance and upgrades, occurs at the Osborne shipyards in SA. The federal government has yet to announce where full cycle docking maintenance will occur for the Attack class Future Submarine Program. In addition, where the Collins class will be maintained after the Attack class are introduced is also yet to be finalised.

In October, a release of documents, obtained by Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, suggested that the maintenance of the Collins Class submarines would move to WA, leading to the loss of jobs and expertise in SA. The Collins class are based at HMAS Stirling, in Western Australia.

According to the report from Flinders University, the transferral of the necessary capability from SA to WA, which includes cutting the submarines in half, to remove engines, and subsequent re-welding, would lead to significant duplication expenses.

“The case for relocation of Collins Class FCD to Western Australia has not been accompanied by evidence of any benefit to the nation,” said the report, authored by John Spoehr and Ann-Louise Hordacre, from the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.

This determination is based on the cost of relocating the requirements of submarine maintenance, as well as the current levels of capabilities in both SA and WA.

“A prudent course of action would be to strengthen the existing division of sustainment responsibilities between Osborne and Henderson. The case for maintaining all FCD at Osborne is overwhelming and the case for relocation to Henderson is unfounded,” states the report.