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Ship building in Australia

Ship building industry of Australia is one of the most significant industries in the Australian economy. Western Australia is the leader of the world in terms of manufacturing of high speed and lightweight ships. Shipbuilding is also a primary industry in South Australia and in other cities of Australia. At present, Australia accounts for 30% of the international market share for aluminium shipbuilding. Ship building in Australia has earned a considerable repute for itself in the whole world with its range of yachts, ships, luxury vessels and cruisers.

The ship building industry in Australia commenced with the launch of the 10 Ton Rose Hill Packet in the year 1789. The industry continued to grow with the set up of the Colonial Government’s Shipyard in 1797. The very next year, the first privately managed shipyard was opened by James Underwood at Pyrmont, New South Wales. In 1857, The Hunter River Steam Navigation Company was renamed as The Australian Steam Navigation Company. After three years, the first iron-hulled vessel, ‘Ballarat’ was built in Australia. The Australian ship building industry however did not expand much till the year 1911, after which a naval ship building programme was launched in Cockatoo Island. Before the Second World War, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company started a ship building yard in Whyalla and thereafter in Brisbane. These two companies together produced 74 merchant ships from 1942-72. The ship building industry in Australia has witnessed a decline from 1970 onwards.

The main bulk of the ship building industry in Australia is located at Queensland, followed by New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territories. The major produce includes powerboats, yachts, ski boats, kayaks, catamarans, cruisers and canoes. The main materials used for ship building purposes include fibreglass, timber and aluminium. The major ship building yards of Australia in modern times include—Williamstown Dockyard Victoria, Vickers Cockatoo Dockyard Pty. Ltd., Sydney, North Queensland Engineers and Agents Cairns, Queensland, Australian Shipbuilding Industries Kwinana, Western Australia and Carrington Slipway at Newcastle.

The ship building sector in Australia mainly makes three types of vessels:
  • Commercial ship building
  • Ship building for defence purposes
  • Commercial renovation and maintenance of ships
The commercial repair and shipbuilding industry of Australia is quite small in comparison to the international world. However, the naval and defence shipbuilding industry of Australia is quite well-developed.

Most of the ship building industries of Australia are based in the Australian Marine Complex which accounts for 55% of the shipbuilding production of Australia. Out of the total production, 95% of them are built for the export market. The Australian Marine Complex accounts for 20% of the total world’s production for lightweight and high-speed ferries. More and more international organisations are looking forwards towards the Australian ship building and repairindustry for the maintenance of their ships.

Some of the famous international boat competitions are held in Australia which includes Sydney International Boat Show, Perth International Boat Show, Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show and Melbourne Boat Show.

The main markets for Australian ship building industry include USA and Europe, followed by Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain. Nowadays, the Arabian Gulf, South America, Europe and South Asian countries are also depending largely on Australian ship building industry. Thus, ship building in Australia is definitely making its presence felt in the global market.
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