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The SEA 3036 Pacific Patrol Boat Replacement (PPB-R) program involves the acquisition and support of up to 21 new vessels to replace a fleet of Pacific-class patrol boats gifted to 12 Pacific Island nations between 1987 and 1997.

A Cairns-based tender, notionally titled the 'Cairns Solution', is being led by prime contractor Teekay Shipping (Australia), subcontracting to Damen for technical expertise, BSE Maritime Solutions for the build, and Norship Marine for its support capability. Queensland already has a strong skills base in the region, gained from supporting the current fleet of patrol boats and the resources sector, so the 'Cairns Solution' will draw upon this expertise. In November 2015, the Cairns-based consortia was shortlisted as one of two teams in the final bid for the project.

Defence Industries Queensland is supportive of the Cairns bid and believes the city has the capability to deliver the project effectively, given the strong track record of the consortia. Cairns is also close to the end user and vessels' area of operation.

BSE Maritime Solutions

BSE Maritime Solutions has repaired and maintained RAN ships for more than 30 years and provides current support services for Armidale-class patrol boats, Hydrographic survey vessels and smaller naval vessels. The Fremantle-class patrol boats, decommissioned in 2007, were built at Cairns Slipways, now owned by BSE.

BSE Maritime Solutions' northern facility is closely located to the HMAS Cairns naval base and includes:

  • a dry dock that accommodates vessels up to 60 metres in length
  • a slipway that supports vessels up to 1200 tonnes and 80 metres in length
  • a side slip that accommodates vessels up to 200 tonnes and 40 metres in length
  • 360 metres of wharf space
  • 24-hour refuelling capability
  • cranes with up to 70 tonne capacity.

Norship Marine

Norship Marine has significant experience docking and refitting vessels, including patrol boats, for the RAN, border forces and Pacific nations. The Norship Marine site covers five hectares and the company's facilities include travel lift machines with 160 and 400 tonne capacity and 50 fully serviced hardstand bays, catering for more than 600 vessels per year.

In November 2015, Norship had eight patrol boats under contract for maintenance including two Bay-class patrol boats, two Pacific-class patrol boats and four Armidale-class patrol boats.

The company has recently upgraded its Armidale- and Cape-class patrol boat wharves to improve workflow efficiency and ultimately give customers' more operational days at sea. They have also invested in laser alignment tools, 3D software and other technical solutions to increase service standards.

Owner of Norship Marine, Ray Fry, is part of the Fry family who established North Queensland Engineers and Agents (NQEA), which built HMAS Townsville (pictured below) as part of the Fremantle-class patrol boat project. This vessel was laid down in 1979 and commissioned into the RAN in 1981 - assigned to the HMAS Cairns naval base. It was used for a range of operations including border control, fisheries protection, Operation Morris Dance (1987) and was used in the Patrol Boat television series.

HMAS Townsville was decommissioned in May 2007 and donated to the Townsville Maritime Museum. Its preservation is a showcase of Far North Queensland's historical patrol boat capability.

The Norship Marine shipyard

HMAS Mermaid unslipping at BSE Maritime Solutions

Cairns has a history of successfully building and supporting patrol vessels, and the 'Cairns Solution' consortium brings global experience to provide a strong and credible bid. A Cairns-based project will also leverage the growing manufacturing capability of the nation's north, as outlined in the Northern Australia White Paper.

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