French shipbuilder wins Australian submarine contract

A French company has won a lucrative contract to help build Australia’s new fleet of submarines.

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DCNS won the contract over builders from Japan and Germany who had also been competing for the bid.

The federal government says the French bid beat Germany and Japan in the competition to build Australia’s future submarine fleet because it is best able to meet the country’s special requirements.

The government initiated what it calls a competitive evaluation process panel that consisted of defence personnel and experts who oversaw the tender, before concluding France’s Shortfin Barracuda submarine model offered the best capabilities.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the move is important for both Australia’s national security and the manufacturing sector.

“This is a momentous national endeavour. This is securing together with our commitment to surface vessel construction, this is securing the future of Australia’s navy. Over decades to come, the submarine project alone will see Australian workers building Australian submarines with Australian steel here where we are standing today because of the commitment we have made to this great national endeavour of building Australia’s navy of the 21st century.”

Mr Turnbull says negotiations to finalise the estimated $50 billion job with French shipbuilder DCNS will start immediately.

The French company will co-design the 12 new submarines with some component parts coming from Australia and the United States.

The prime minister says the decision will create 2,800 jobs domestically, and boost national security.

South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill says most of the building will happen at the shipbuilding facility at Osborne in South Australia.

Mr Wetherrill also welcomes a commitment to use South Australian steel in the manufacture of the submarines where possible.

“It would be depending on the steel requirements as I understand it there are certain elements of the construction of submarines that would require the sort of steel that we produce at Whyalla and other types of steel produced in other parts of the country will also be required. I understand that’s the nature of the commitment given, but I haven’t seen the detailed contract but it’s noteworthy to see steel mentioned and I do know that that submarines of this sort do require steal of the sort that’s produced in Whyalla.”

But the federal opposition is not convinced French company DCNS will build all 12 of Australia’s new submarines in Adelaide.

Labor has accused the prime minister of leaving open the prospect of partly building the fleet outside Australia.

SA Labor Senator Penny Wong has called on Mr Turnbull to rule out a hybrid build before the election, saying DCNS has previously hinted it would like to build one or two of the vessels in France before moving construction to Adelaide.

“What we will need to focus on is ensuring we get the maximum possible commitment from the Liberal party to South Australian jobs, I think we have all seen this before. We have seen the Liberal party say the right thing before an election and then walk away from it after an election. I think what we do need is bipartisan commitment to jobs here. Bipartisan commitment to making sure that the workers who have been made redundant throughout our state get access to the opportunities this presents.”

In France, the new Barracuda nuclear attack submarine is in the final stages of construction in a design close to how Australia’s new submarines are expected to look.

The French nuclear Barracuda weighs 4,700 tonnes and measures 99.5 metres in length.

Australia’s non-nuclear version, named the Shortfin Barracuda, will weigh 4,500 tonnes and measure 97 metres – substantially bigger than the 3,100-tonne, 77-metre Collins model is replacing.