Confidence no fabrication for NW business

THE North West Shelf LNG project’s latest market success has raised expectations of a boost to international market confidence in WA’s Pilbara region.

The steel fabrication industry is anticipating a boom, with pressure vessels required for a fifth processing facility, and also the Burrup Fertilisers and Methanex projects.

WA is regarded as having a good steel fabrication base, but there are some formidable competitors in the eastern States.

And most suppliers would like to see things happen quickly, after several difficult years.

“They are beginning to see real projects happening again,” Clough Engineering director, group business development, Peter Collins said. BHP Billiton’s Mining Area C had put some work into the manufacturing industry again.

“Potentially there are busy times ahead,” he said. “And perhaps manufacturers are now seeing a better window of opportunity.”

In light of this, the Cockburn Sound Australian Marine Complex manufacturing and service base currently under development is seen as a major boost to the growth prospects of local industry.

The combined project will boast not only shipbuilding and marine industry support and technology facilities, but also a manufacturing precinct for the fabrication, assembly and load-out of industrial units of up to 15,000 tonnes.

This region, together with the Kwinana industrial area, will facilitate companies’ abilities to participate in major developments.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA director industry policy Bill Sashegyi said there was some concern, however, that manufacturers could be frustrated in attempts to compete with overseas suppliers if no high wide load corridors were designated in addition to the Kwinana to Jervoise Bay route.

Sea transportation was not always practical and barge and heavy lift mobilisation costs could be prohibitive.

An upgrade completion of the Kewdale-Welshpool road link has been put on hold and no work has yet been done to link in areas such as Bassendean and Bayswater.

“It would be of great concern if local fabrication opportunities arising from these projects were to be lost because of the lack of a suitable road network,” Mr Sashegyi said.

“Materials and labour that have been historically sourced locally and then assembled at the construction site can now be imported as fully fitted-out modules, or pre-assembled units, from overseas fabrication facilities.

“These items will most likely be fabricated overseas, off-loaded at regional ports and transported to the project site, bypassing the transport impediments facing local fabricators.”

The Cockburn Sound facilities, plus adequate transport arrangements, were essential for WA industry to retain 60 per cent of the NWS project’s service and supply work.

Given an appropriate network, $81 million of local fabrication work could be transported, reducing resource project construction costs by $27 million per year, and creating or maintaining 2,000 jobs, according to industry predictions.

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