Aussie yards rival Asia for ship repairs

SOUTH East Asia’s dockyards face tougher competition for export earning repair business as our commercial shipyards sharpen their marketing focus on the region.

Western Australia’s premier ship repairer, Tenix Shipbuilding, and east coast yards such as Forgacs and Australian Defence Industries say they are confident they can persuade European, North American and even some Asian ship operators to consider their facilities as an alternative to yards in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Their confidence to succeed in a bid for work where they were once ineffectual against South-East Asia’s highly price competitive yards is fuelled by our extremely favourable exchange rate, efficient work practices and a reputation for a quality product in skilled repair work such as engineering refits.

Further optimism is derived from the proponents of the $200 million Jervoise Bay marine industrial precinct, who say local industry will be in a stronger position to win hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts when the new engineering and fabrication precinct is completed in July 2002.

Jervoise Bay project director Ross Marshall said companies could cite access to this world-class infrastructure when bidding for large ship maintenance contracts, modular work for the oil and gas industry and other fabrication work for the downstream processing and resource sector.

“Australian companies can rent our facilities and include them as part of their bid. These facilities will give fabricators the same sort of infrastructure platform that is available in places like Dubai and Singapore,” Mr Marshall said.

“I should point out our facilities are not intended to compete with the Tenix ship lift. We are here to enhance the position of industry.”

Tenix Shipbuilding WA, a close neighbour to Jervoise Bay, is exploiting its geographic position - just seven sea-journey days away from Singapore - in its promotional drive for repair work.

Tenix has established an office in Singapore to concentrate on winning a greater share of repair work and is also considering the appointment of an agent in Hong Kong.

The yard, which has a core workforce of 150 people and sources contract labour, does not try to compete with Asian yards for contracts requiring a large unskilled labour content such as tank cleaning and painting.

However, it is competitive for more skilled repair contracts that account for 50 per cent of work at the yard, which also builds patrol vessels, bulk carriers and offshore support vessels.

General manager for WA Phillip Brown said there had been an increasing level of inquiries from shipowners who traditionally opted for a Singapore yard without exploring further options.

“I’m not at liberty to provide you with details of future work coming up, but we are seeing some promising signs,” he said.

Tenix WA is a division of the Sydney-based Tenix Defence Systems Pty Ltd, which derives the majority of its earnings from the multi-billion dollar Anzac Frigate project.

The Henderson repair facility can accommodate vessels up to 150m long and draws its client base from the defence sector, the luxury yacht industry and resource industries for ongoing refits and repairs of oil and gas supply vessels, seismic vessels, container and bulk carriers, tugs and dredges.

It has just completed docking for Austral Fisheries vessel the Southern Champion and other repair contracts have been the 150m container ship the Sea Road Tamar and several European-owned ships.

Mr Brown said a Hong Kong agent could assist with the pursuit of fast ferry contracts that may be generated from the Taiwan-China crossing.

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