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Sea swap a good deal for business

BIG spending by the US Navy injected more than $50 million into the Western Australian economy giving local business operators a healthy start to the New Year.

WA engineering and industrial companies reaped a significant portion of the windfall from the USS Abraham Lincoln and the sea swap program, with many companies gaining lucrative six figure contracts. 

USS Abraham Lincoln spent around $570,000 hiring charter vessels and security boats during its extended stay in Perth waters.

The colossal task of stripping and resealing the aircraft carrier’s 40,000 square metre flight deck, understood to have cost at least $600,000, was completed by Australian company Eptec, with support from WA companies JOT, Under Raps and Coates Hire.

Eptec operations manager Joe Viglione said the project was the largest the company had completed for the US Navy and was the first time a navy ship had been resurfaced off shore.

Mr Viglione said the company had been working with the US Navy for the past five years around the nation.

“We used to be aware of the ship movements, but with today’s security issues we only find out about a job a week before,” he said.

WA companies completed three quarters of the work on the flight deck, however, Mr Viglione said the huge amount of resources required meant specialised equipment and operators had to be flown in from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

“It doesn’t matter whether the job was done in Sydney or Melbourne , we would still have had to fly in resources from interstate to supplement the State’s supply,” he said.

The destroyer USS Fletcher awarded $500,000 in more than 20 separate contracts to local companies for work, including security, port costs, hull maintenance and deck recladding.

Other companies to have benefited from the US Navy dollar included Fremantle Foundry and Engineering, Sealanes, Franmarine Underwater Services, Contract Marine Coating, Cleanaway, Austindo, Kwinana Insulation and Sheetmetal Company, Navcom Piping, Rydlyme, Patrick Defence Logistics, Thrifty Car rental and Boat Torque Bus Hire.

WA Taxi Council president Kevin Foley said taxi drivers also cashed in on the average $200 per day US Navy personnel spent onshore.

He said the drivers had experienced their best January period in more than 40 years.

Mr Foley said the first four to six weeks of the year were normally quiet but while the visiting US Navy ships were in town trade was up 10.7 per cent on previous years.

“Now the aircraft carrier has left it has died in a hole but while they were here they kept the pendulum swinging,” he said. “It wasn’t outrageous but they kept things moving.”

Mr Foley said all business people would support the sea swap program.

Military Tours managing director Colin Evans said about 3,000 US Navy personnel took part in tours with 35 local tour operators and venues.

He said 60 per cent of personnel chose to stay in hotels and 800 to 900 hotel rooms were booked out per night during the US Navy’s stay.

“The Navy estimates around $3 to $5 million is spent in the hospitality region during the term of a visit,” Mr Evans said.

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