Local shipyards stand to benefit from a new 3,000-tonne synchrolift that could be built. David Robinson reports.

Marlins Marina in Cairns

The Marlins Marina in Cairns

The winning of a A$55m a year Australian Navy contract to maintain patrol vessels stands to give a major boost to Cairns’ shipyard facilities.

Cairns is already in line to receive government funding of A$24m to improve its marine facilities – a promise made to the city by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before the last election. Discussions are understood to be ongoing as to how best to spend this money, but again there would inevitably be a benefit for local shipyards servicing visiting superyachts.

Financial boost

The big bonus for Cairns’ shipyards, which the naval contract puts in prospect, is the building of a 3,000-tonne capacity synchrolift that would be required to lift the patrol boats out of the water. When not being used by the Navy, there is a possibility that it could be used for superyachts.

The anticipated cost of the synchrolift is A$150m-$200m but how this would be funded has not been disclosed.

Local MP for the Leichhardt district, which includes Cairns, told the Mercury newspaper: “I want to have a bid in for a 3,000-tonne synchrolift by the end of this year. That’s why it is so important for the A$24m marine precinct upgrade to be done as quickly as possible.”

There is a period during which the new patrol boats have to be built and the existing vessels will not be decommissioned until 2019. Entsch added: “The marine precinct upgrade of wharves, floating docks, refit yards, workshops, and hardstands was getting very close to being signed off.”

Of the three main shipyards in Cairns – BSE Maritime Solutions, Norship Marine and Tropical Reef Shipyard – the first two are most involved with the superyacht market and both are in the process of revamping their shipyards to increase capacity and the capability to service yachts.