Austal makes the pace in manufacturing

01/10/2008 - 22:00


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HENDERSON-BASED shipbuilder Austal Ltd has cemented its place as Western Australia's largest manufacturing exporter, achieving $383.

HENDERSON-BASED shipbuilder Austal Ltd has cemented its place as Western Australia's largest manufacturing exporter, achieving $383.9 million in export revenues for 2007-08.

Austal is ranked the state's 18th biggest exporter in the WA Business News Book of Lists, upping its WA export revenues by 20 per cent on the previous financial year and reporting a record net profit of $52 million.

During the year, Austal's Australian operations completed a 65-metre vehicle passenger ferry for the Sultanate of Oman, three 57-metre Armidale Class Patrol Boats for the Royal Australian Navy, an 88-metre vehicle passenger ferry for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and seven 48-metre fast ferries for delivery to the Venetian Resort in Macau.

Currently under construction are two 69-metre and two 88-metre vehicle passenger ferries for a single customer, two 48-metre passenger ferries for Hong Kong, a 36-metre private vessel, a 65-metre vehicle passenger ferry for Oman, and three 48-metre passenger ferries from the original 10 boat Venetian order.

Staff levels have stabilised at Henderson at about 1,518, almost 200 more than the previous year.

The company has worked to tackle the state's labour shortage by converting its Henderson operations to a modular manufacturing process, which it says facilitates improved efficiencies and allows lower skill levels to be employed.

Austal has also mechanised some of the production processes, and has further upgrades planned for the upcoming financial year.

Emerging international shipbuilding firm Strategic Marine also experienced strong revenue growth, with $80 million in export revenues for 2007-08, almost double that of the previous year.

The Henderson-based company currently has an order book valued at $280 million.

Marketing manager, and son of company director Ron Anderson, Jamie Anderson, said the company was forecasting export revenues for its Australian operations of $150 million in 2008-09.

It also plans to build a new shed at its Henderson shipyard to house a state-of-the-art office block.

One of its major contracts is the 163 patrol boat contract for Suncraft International, which has been a stable provider of revenue for the Australia operations.

Strategic Marine was also awarded the $60 million contract to build the floating dock for the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson, with delivery scheduled for mid 2009.

Mr Anderson told WA Business News that, while the demand from the booming oil and gas sector was good for the company, the labour shortage in WA remained a major issue for the company.

Strategic Marine employs 110 staff in WA, having put on an additional 20 people this financial year.

"It's been very challenging, with the labour shortage. That's one of our main obstacles," he said.

On a smaller scale, Spearwood-based boat builder Sabre Catamarans generated export revenues of $6 million in 2007-08, slightly down on last year's result.

But managing director Bill Harry said the company, which specialises in fast passenger ferries, was currently building a luxury vessel that would add $20 million to its 2008-09 revenue


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