Your Ad Here

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hunter on list for submarine base

NEWCASTLE Port could become a second Garden Island, home to six submarines and a highly skilled maintenance workforce under ambitious new plans from the NSW Government.

Attending yesterday's Pacific 2010 International Maritime Conference, Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay said the NSW Government would investigate the potential for the Port of Newcastle to become a defence industry hub, as NSW goes after its share of the Commonwealth's $300 billion defence budget.

The Royal Australian Navy is expected to upgrade its equipment, with 12 new submarines to replace the current six Collins Class submarines, under plans outlined in the Defence White Paper.

Premier Kristina Keneally said NSW would try to gain work for sites in Sydney, Newcastle and Nowra.

The navy already has bases at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour and an air station at HMAS Albatross at Nowra.

NSW Defence Industry Advisor John Blackburn said Newcastle had strong capabilities.

"The navy is keen to look for an East Coast base," Mr Blackburn said.

"And we have been talking to the port authority about the possibilities.

"If half the fleet was at Newcastle then this would bring a huge amount of work. It would be worth billions of dollars.

"And it would be a 20- to 30-year plan.

"We have been talking to the University of Newcastle to identify education that will be needed to support the industry. "

The university's pro-vice-chancellor of research, Professor Mike Calford, said that involvement would probably be through the engineering faculty, in areas of skills development and research.

Newcastle Port Corporation chief executive Gary Webb welcomed the Government's approach.

"The history of Newcastle in terms of vessel manufacturing, repairs and engineering background is strong and serves us well," Mr Webb said.

"The service of vessels and ship repair that goes on here comes in a variety of sizes and shapes." (source theherald)