Boosting Australian shipbuilding capability

BAE Systems Maritime Australia (BAE) is using ICN Gateway to promote and call for expressions of interest from Australian companies that have registered their interest in the Hunter Class Frigate Program.

Already, more than 1,400 Australian businesses have registered on the platform.

BAE started working with ICN to identify local suppliers during the Hunter program’s tender phase, and in June 2018, the Commonwealth awarded the prime the project. At the same time, the government announced that ASC Shipbuilding – now known as BAE Systems Maritime Australia – would become a subsidiary of BAE Systems Australia Ltd.

According to Julian Bennett, BAE Systems Maritime Australia’s Head of Australian Industry Capability for the Hunter Class Frigate Program, ICN Gateway is “a kind of one-stop-shop where we can post all updates relevant to the program, including open work packages, contracts awarded, RFPs that have been issued, and an indication of when future work packages will be issued”.

BAE also uses the Gateway to promote Hunter program presentations and supply chain updates, including previous webinar presentations.

“Over the past 12 months we have conducted more than 130 direct engagements with Australian SMEs, and our webinars became a key platform for us once the pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person events,” Julian said.

“We held three webinars during 2020, attended by 1000 people representing nearly 800 businesses.

“Our first webinar for 2021 was held on 18 March and was attended by nearly 300 people representing businesses around the country. The focus of the webinar was ‘collaboration’, and featured updates on AIC and supply chain packages, as well as presentations from Australian defence industry groups.

“Collaboration is crucial for us. It is only through collaboration that Hunter, and our contribution to the nation’s Continuous Naval Shipbuilding strategy, will be successful.”

The portal also provides contact details for BAE’s supply chain team, and welcomes questions from businesses, or can offer “a steer in the right direction”.

“To date, there has been a great deal of activity on the ICN, and it will continue to be our primary route to advertise opportunities and seek expressions of interest from industry,” Julian said.

“Nearly 100 work packages have been released through the ICN so far, and this number will continue to grow throughout this year.

“While our early focus has been on placing contracts with Australian businesses for the program’s prototyping phase which successfully commenced on time in December 2020 – 40 contracts placed to date – we are now turning our attention to creating the opportunities for Australian businesses on the first batch of three frigates. We are working hard with our OEMs to develop their AIC plans and identify these opportunities.”

BAE is working with Lloyd’s Register (LR), an international and locally-based provider of classification, compliance and consultancy services to the marine and offshore industries, to build Australian industry capabilities to offer products that meet the requirements of LR Classification of the Hunter Class Frigate Program.

“We aim to do this by having Lloyds embed a level of knowledge in a group of our employees, enabling us to support supplier development,” Julian said.

This knowledge transfer will give BAE the information it needs to:

  • advise organisations on the broad detail of Lloyd’s Register certification requirements for their supplier packages
  • perform gap analysis on the existing operations of suppliers
  • help and advise suppliers on improvements or modifications needed to meet the project and Lloyd’s Register naval classification requirements.

The prototype phase is expected to last two years and involves extensively testing the processes, systems, tools, facilities and workforce competencies before construction begins on the first frigate in 2022.

According to the BAE Gateway page, Australian companies are expected to play a significant role in the prototyping phase – and according to Julian they already are, with multiple contracts already awarded to local businesses, including steel manufacturers BlueScope Steel AIS and Infrabuild Steel Centre, APS Adelaide Profile Services, Intertek’s Adelaide Inspection Services, MG Engineering, TQCSI-Yaran and Altrad,

BAE is also working with industry and academia to explore and test local technologies that will contribute to ongoing construction efficiency and safety outcomes at the Osborne shipyard.

Julian said that while there was no deadline for Australian suppliers to register their interest on Gateway, “it’s important to note that work packages will come and go, so the sooner a business registers, the better”.

He also advised interested businesses to “ensure you use the taxonomy in ICN to identify the skills and capability you offer as this means you will get relevant information and notices to your areas of interest”.

Over the next three decades, BAE Systems Maritime Australia will build nine submarine-hunting warships for the Royal Australian Navy.

To find out more, register for updates or submit an expression of interest, go to the BAE System Hunter Class Frigate Program Gateway page.