Momentum is building to have Prince of Wales Bay officially recognised as a defence precinct, reflecting Tasmania’s growing reputation as a leading sector supplier.
Prince of Wales Bay, which covers just over 100 hectares in Hobart’s north, has long been the Tasmanian hub of maritime and advanced manufacturing.
Long recognised as the home of global success story Incat Catamarans, in recent years Prince of Wales Bay has also been garnering a reputation as a leading defence hub, and the pressure is on to make that official.
The Tasmania Maritime Network (TMN) – the peak maritime industry lobby group – is leading the push to have the area officially named as a defence precinct.
“The importance of having this precinct officially recognised as the Prince of Wales Bay Maritime Defence Precinct is that it underpins the positive image and profile of Tasmania’s defence capability,” TMN Chairman, Rob Miley, explains.
“Most other states and territories have similar focused hubs of activity, and it is important that we have that kind of recognition as well.”
Tasmania’s defence industry is big business, and rapidly getting bigger.
The sector now injects $340 million into the state economy each year, as well as providing 2,000 direct jobs.
Thirty key Tasmanian companies currently supply defence contracts. Of these, one third are based at Prince of Wales Bay.
“I think it [Prince of Wales Bay] is unique. There are not many places in Australia with that level of commitment and diversity in the defence industry in one area,” Miley adds.
“Prince of Wales Bay Maritime Defence Precinct is an outstanding hub of export, innovation and advanced manufacturing, not only in Tasmania, but representing the nation.
“Furthermore, the potential here is huge – really huge. We are really only just coming of age now with our nine key companies here out of 30, but they are getting really good opportunities and contracts and I think it is important that we realise it is export dollars that they are generating.”
The roll call of companies involved with defence at Prince of Wales Bay is impressive.
Another is Liferaft Systems Australia (LSA), one of the earliest Tasmanian companies to move into the lucrative defence sphere.
Since 2004, LSA have been supplying their marine evacuation systems, including 100-person life-rafts, to the US, UK, New Zealand and Dutch navies.
The company also scored a $10 million contract to supply marine evacuation systems for Australia’s newest battleships: nine Hunter Class global combat ships under a supply agreement with British manufacturer BAE Systems.
“I think there is a lot of potential in terms of niche manufacturing products that the navy can’t necessarily source from other states in Australia, and we tend to do the specialist manufacturing in defence very very well in this state,” LSA Managing Director, and Brand Tasmania Chairman, Michael Grainger said.
“A lot of development is going on within companies in the Tasmania Maritime Network, and these companies – like ourselves – who have been dealing with defence for some time now, are continuing to evolve and become more defence savvy and ready to supply our defence forces.”
Meantime, it seems another name – PFG – could soon be added to the list of defence suppliers at Prince of Wales Bay.
In the Oceania region, PFG is the biggest manufacturer of industrial grade plastic boats, which includes its rugged workhorse, the Aquatruck, affectionately known as the ‘Hi-lux of the seas’.
With 40 years' experience under its belt, PFG has been in talks with the Australian Navy about its Aquatrucks and believes a contract may not be far away.
“I wouldn’t say imminent, but certainly in the short-term we are absolutely confident we will land a defence contract,” PFG Chief Executive Officer, Michael Sylvester says.
“We are currently actively promoting ourselves in that sector.”
Aquatrucks are so tough that the first one built back in 1994 has not yet reached end of life, and remains in full commercial survey.
PFG believes these fast response vessels – which have already proven themselves in law enforcement with boats sold to the Tasmanian and Queensland police forces – are an ideal fit for the Navy.
“The best attributes of Aquatruck are stability, rideability, durability and low impact to its operators.
“I think they are a great vessel for ship to shore transfer, and long transfer of navy personal through high seas,” Sylvester adds.
Meantime as the Commonwealth embarks on its $195 billion defence spend – touted as Australia’s largest ever economic stimulus – Tasmania is perfectly poised to carve out a lucrative slice of this pie.
With a large portion of that slice coming from the Prince of Wales Maritime Defence Precinct.
“There is nothing we can’t do here in this state. As an island nation we have proven our innovation and our willingness to come up with a solution and that’s what defence is looking for,” Rob Miley explains.
“We have got to still continue to push that hard through Canberra and other areas to make sure we get the right product out there for defence in the future.”
Image courtesy of The Mercury
Watch the video below to take a tour of Hobart’s Prince of Wales Bay Maritime Defence Precinct and meet some of the local defence suppliers:
11 September 2018, Edition 198