Having recently attended the Pacific 2017 Naval and Maritime Conference in Sydney, it seems that business confidence and optimism is high. There was generally a great vibe and the turnout was strong, with lots of exhibitors and delegates making for a buzzing trade hall. The new Sydney ICC is a great venue and the trade hall layout provided a great opportunity for networking.
My week started with attending the official opening breakfast ceremony and listening to the PM Malcolm Turnbull announce the big news from the event, being the SEA 5000 Combat System arrangement and the increased role for SAAB Australia in becoming Australia’s sovereign Naval Combat System Management partner across surface ships. Essentially, our future frigates will have a Lockheed Martin AEGIS Combat System for surface to air missile capability, front ended with the SAAB 9LV Combat Management System in which they will develop the technical interfaces needed for the CEA CEAFAR Radar and BAE NULKA, etc. SAAB Australia will also retro fit the 9LV to the DDG’s at some point and it has also been mandated for the SEA 1180 OPV’s.
SEA 5000 seemed to dominate the show with the three bidding Platform designers/ Shipbuilders stands front and centre, and all were strongly represented. There was also increased talk and speculation about when we will hear an announcement on SEA 1180, the consensus being it will be announced before mid-November. SEA 1000 partners Naval Group, LMA and CASG also gave an update to a well-attended audience during a briefing at the conference. RADM Sammut commented that the dimensions of the boat had been defined and that the project is on schedule.
There was also the launch of DIESC (Defence Industry Education & Skills Consortium) which is looking to play a part in making sure we have the required skills and capabilities in industry to support the upcoming shipbuilding projects. Having listened to the panel discussion during the DIESC launch it’s clear that we have a challenge ahead in preparing the required shipbuilding workforce in the numbers and quality required. This is a challenge that only invested collaboration will resolve. It will start with an enterprise level workforce plan to work out what we already have by way of capability/ capacity and who/ which project will need what and when, so that the primes and the Naval Shipbuilding College (NSC) and DIESC, amongst others, can get workers production ready. We don’t want a scenario where we have an undersupply, which will create risk to the cost and schedule of programs. Equally we don’t want a scenario where there is oversupply, as people won’t have jobs to go to. We need to coordinate an approach that allows us to identify the future workforce requirements, and then invest in the STEM supply chain to address long term needs, whilst also creating programs now that allow us to re-train, upskill and integrate existing workers and adjacent industry workers in the short term. Given that the mobilisation periods for SEA 5000 and SEA 1180 are quite short, the challenge is for government to set the right policy sooner rather than later. Exciting but complex challenges and programs lie ahead for the industry. Collaboration, and where possible taking an enterprise approach will be the most likely route to succeed.
Australian Defence Magazine (ADM) asked myself and Rob Kremer, Kinexus Defence Director, to comment on the state of the maritime workforce article for their Pacific 2017 edition.
Click here to read our comments and thoughts.
All in all, it was a great event, one that brings this community together every two years to talk business, share knowledge/ ideas and generally discuss what is going on in the industry. Please contact one of our Naval consultants at Kinexus to gain further insights.
By Chris Money
Naval Sector Lead