The Australian government has committed $4.3 billion (US$3.1 billion) to build the first large-vessel dry docking facility at Henderson Shipyard in Western Australia.
It comes as Australia’s west coast state is set to host American and British nuclear-powered submarines as part of the AUKUS partnership.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday said the project includes building a large vessel dry-dock and associated infrastructure in Henderson. It will support around 500 jobs in the construction of the “world-class shipyard” and around 2,000 jobs once completed.
“This work will ensure we can maintain our sovereignty, our flexibility and offer long-term value for money outcomes for the Australian public,” he told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.
“We expect construction to commence in 2023-2023 with initial operational capability by 2029, and a final operating capability by 2030.”
It will be the country’s second dry dock used to build and sustain large vessels and is expected to provide redundancy to the Captain Cook graving dock in Sydney.
However, Stirling and Fleet Base West in Perth would remain at the heart of Australia’s Navy and submarine fleet.
“The integration between what happens on our west coast and our east coast is incredibly important for how we defend our nation,” Morrison said.
The WA government applauded the decision, with Defence Industries minister Paul Papalia saying it recognised WA as a strategic location for the country, with an important role to play in managing its naval fleet.
“For over two years, we’ve been working with the federal government on this dry dock plan,” he said, the ABC reported on March 15.
“What we also need, in the future, is a commitment from the federal government for our naval shipbuilders.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also noted the Defence Department was looking at what extra services would be needed in WA’s submarine base to support American and British nuclear vessels.
He said results are expected to come back in late 2022 and to get moving “as quickly as possible.”
“The ability of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines to be here on the west coast, and ultimately we’d like to see them on the east coast as well, is all part of what our plan is as we continue to push forward our AUKUS partnership.”
“But in addition to that, it’s about the capability that we’re continuing to put in place in our naval operations, and that includes the Collins-class submarine, the life of types extensions, the mid-cycle and the full-cycle docking that is occurring with that important fleet of submarines.”
The trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced in 2021, seeks to deepen diplomatic, security and defence relationships between the three nations and help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
The announcement came two weeks after Morrison committed to building a nuclear-submarine base on Australia’s east coast which will house allied nuclear-powered vessels. The final location is yet to be announced after the election, with the potential sites being Brisbane (Queensland), Newcastle (North of Sydney), or Port Kembla (South of Sydney).
Salvatore Babones, associate professor at the University of Sydney and expert in political economy, said that while the move seemed to be prompted by the upcoming federal election, he noted there was a need for a new base outside of existing facilities in Sydney Harbour.
“The location of Australia’s Fleet Base East in Sydney is crowded and obsolete,” he told The Epoch Times on March. 7. “A new submarine base might be the prompt for moving the Australian navy out of Sydney to somewhere more useful and secure.
Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this report.