The Queensland government has fast-tracked delivery of a campaign promise to fund $30 million to upgrade shipping yards in the far north as part of its CCP virus economic recovery plan.
The funding will also help achieve the Royal Australian Navy’s goals of upgrading Cairns’ marine precinct to become a maintenance hub for its vessels, as Australia keeps watch on the Chinese communist regime increasing presence in the pacific.
Acting Premier Steven Miles who was in Cairns on Thursday to deliver on campaign promises made by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in October said the government is now in the market for the $2 million business case for the expansion of the Cairns Marine Precinct.
Currently there are three established shipyards in Cairns that provide maintenance and sustainment of vessels.
The business case will set out a plan to increase the capability, infrastructure, and skills of the industry to cater to larger Navy vessels and other large commercial vessels.
The government expects works to begin in 2021.
“Lots of jobs in construction as well as the jobs in the supply chain right around Cairns and the region that will, that will be generated by this really exciting work,” Miles said.
Cairns state Labor MP Michael Healy welcomed the news and said Cairns appreciated the marine precinct’s contribution to the local economy.
“This has huge potential for Cairns,” he said. “If we go back over our history, we’ve had shipbuilding here for generations. So to investigate the possibility of rekindling that I think is enormously exciting and has huge potential.
He added, “It also provides reassurance for businesses.”
Andrew Wagner, the business development manager from local vessel maintenance company Tropical Reef Shipyards (TRS), said the government’s announcement was significant for the region and the livelihoods of the 300 SMEs that are part of TRS' supply chain.
“There’s a tremendous potential here to grow,” he said. “The future of the Defence and the Navy, and what they’re doing opens this market right up.”
But Cairns needs the infrastructure now, he said. Wagner said one of the first capacity upgrades at the TRS facility is the ship lift, to handle larger vessels.
Chris Boland, the CEO of state-owned Ports North, said they had been working with the marine industry and ADF in the development of a master plan for the Cairns marine precinct.
“The scope of the work will be looking at infrastructure to have additional lift-out facilities to lift vessels between 80-120 meters in length,” Boland said. “To store them, to maintain them; both in hardstands and shed infrastructure.”
Boland said the $28 million that has been allocated to Ports North would go towards building wharves because a large proportion of the work on vessels is done in the water.
The wharves will be built while the business case is being completed.