Shipbuilding group Fincantieri plans to list on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) and open an office in Adelaide as it waits for the federal government to evaluate bids for the SEA 5000 Future Frigate program.
The moves announced on Thursday are the latest sign of the company’s commitment to the Australian market, having set up its local arm Fincantieri Australia in Canberra in late 2016, with Dario Deste its chairman.
“This initiative allows Australian investor participation in Fincantieri Australia and ensures that decisions will be taken locally and in the best interests of Australia,” Deste said in a statement.
Fincantieri the parent company is listed on the Borsa Italiana, while its Vard subsidiary is traded on the Singapore Exchange.
The SEA 5000 Future Frigate program, set to commence in 2020, will replace the Navy’s Anzac class frigates. The nine new ships for the Royal Australian Navy are to be built in South Australia.
The Italy-headquartered Fincantieri is one of three companies shortlisted for the SEA 5000 Future Frigate alongside BAE Systems and Navantia.
The federal budget handed down in May said the SEA 5000 Phase 1 Future Frigate (Design and Construction) project was slated for Second Pass (i.e. final) approval during 2017/18.
BAE Systems has put forward the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Fincantieri has proposed its FREMM-A frigate, while Navantia is going with a redesigned F-100 (the baseline platform design for the Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyer), dubbed the F-5000.
Fincantieri Australia would open an office in Adelaide in early October as it starts up local operations “in anticipation of commencing the Future Frigate project in 2018”.
“This facility expands Fincantieri’s operations into Adelaide as we mobilise Australian industry, activate the Adelaide shipyard with the proven digital tools used to build the Italian FREMM frigates on time and on budget in Italy and recruit and train the Australian shipbuilding workforce for the project,” Deste said.
Beyond the Future Frigate project, Fincantieri said it and selected sub-contractors would begin construction of cruise ship blocks in Australia from 2018 “to commence training the Australian shipbuilding workforce in Fincantieri tools and methods”.
Further, these training activities would lead into the start of production of the Future Frigate from 2020.
Fincantieri said its Vard subsidiary had secured an order for an expedition cruise vessel for Coral Sea Expeditions of Australia, adding that a number of the blocks for this ship would be built here in Australia as part of its mobilisation initiatives.
“Building blocks of the Coral Sea Expeditions cruise ship here in Australia shows how Fincantieri’s size and strength can join new opportunities in the market and the shipbuilding industry together,” Deste said.
“Vard offers exciting opportunities for joint venture partners in Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry.
“And these opportunities flow directly from the engineering know-how Fincantieri contributes to Australia’s naval industry.”
Fincantieri said it had placed pilot orders with a number of local companies – Hoffman Engineering to build in Australia a bow thruster for a Landing Platform Dock for a Middle Eastern navy, BlueScope Steel to supply steel for cruise ship building, and Calibre for the preliminary design of an advanced manufacturing facility in Adelaide.
They join the 80,000-strong group of Fincantieri subcontractors around the world.
Fincantieri said it had also started the recruitment process for 150 Australian engineers, supervisors and technicians to join its Italian FREMM Frigates from 2018 as part of effort to build up expertise ahead of the Future Frigate Project.
The company had said previously it would use an Australian shipbuilding workforce to build all the Future Frigates.