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Interview

Austal - Meeting Global Needs of Asymmetric Maritime Threats

In an exclusive interview, Mr. Michael McCourt, Vice President, Middle East of Austal shares insight into future market strategy, the naval market is a logical extension of Austal’s engagement in Turkey. At the forefront of high speed aluminum shipbuilding for nearly three decades, Austal offers a range of platforms that can use speed as either an offensive or defensive capability

Defence Turkey: Dear Mr. Michael McCourt, first of all thanks for this interview. Could you please share with us a bit about Austal’s international policies and offering models in different markets? 

Thank you for the opportunity to share Austal’s vision and products with your readers. Austal is the world’s largest aluminum shipbuilder and Australia’s largest defense exporter; in the past 28 years, we’ve delivered over 255 vessels to 100 operators in 44 countries. Our customers include navies, coastguards and other government authorities, ferry operators and offshore service providers. 

At Austal we believe that exports are fundamental to growing and sustaining the business, ensuring we remain competitive in international markets and increasing our brand awareness globally. Although our home markets, where we have a permanent presence, are the bedrock of the company, we are constantly seeking new product and market opportunities where we can deliver value to our customers and generate returns for our shareholders. 

Defence Turkey: Regarding exports, which regions are you focusing on? Can you inform us about your up-coming strategy and related progress? 

As we deliver vessels into different market sectors, we are constantly reviewing trends and opportunities. In the defense market, we see many countries sharing similar maritime security challenges as we have in Australia, with long coastlines, irregular arrivals of people by small boats, and a need for counter-terror, counter trafficking and fisheries protection activities. Austal has now delivered 73 patrol vessels from 16 to 58 meters and has been the sole supplier of patrol vessels to the Australian Government for 18 years, so we have great expertise and experience that we can share with customers. With established presence in both the Middle East and Asian markets, we continue to target these areas. 

Also, with a rise in asymmetric maritime threats operating small, fast vessels, as a specialist in high speed aluminum vessels, we can offer a range of platforms which can use speed as either an offensive or defensive capability. 

Defence Turkey: You have a wide range of platforms such as Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), High Speed Support Vessel (HSSV), Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the requirements of allied countries. Which technological outstanding capabilities stand out among the rivals?

Austal has been at the forefront of high speed aluminum shipbuilding for nearly three decades. From our origins in the fast ferry industry, we were among the pioneers of large vessels capable of moving people and equipment at high speed. Today we produce the world’s largest aluminum trimaran, the 127 meter LCS, for the United States Navy. Our ability to build aluminum vessels of this size and complexity, capable of operating at high speed and over long ranges, is a key differentiator. Also, our proprietary Ride Control System reduces ship motions, and while originally designed to improve passenger comfort in our ferries, it is equally valuable in maximizing crew comfort and therefore operational performance in our military vessels.

Defence Turkey: When we analyze the inventory of the Turkish Navy and the emergency requirements of the regions, according to your opinion which class of Austal Platforms could emerge in the up-coming period for the Turkish Market?

Turkey’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia has seen a number of regional security challenges that cross into the maritime domain. However, Turkey has a vibrant and capable naval shipbuilding industry and therefore we are looking at niches where our innovative products can differentiate themselves. We see opportunities in both the larger high speed patrol vessels, and also in high speed logistics vessels.

Defence Turkey: What are the current and upcoming programs that Austal is interested in Turkey?

Austal is continuing to engage with the relevant authorities for possible alignment between the Navy’s upcoming programs and our vessel range. 

Defence Turkey: What is your approach to various project models such as those that comprise technology transfer etc. to Turkey?

We recognize that many countries are seeking to establish or expand a sovereign shipbuilding capability. This can be motivated by self-reliance, to drive innovation, to create jobs or to encourage investment in local capabilities. This is the case in both the US and Australia where we have naval shipyards. Also, we recognize that to be successful in those countries, we need to be willing and capable to transfer technology into those markets when required. As I mentioned above, Turkey already has a capable shipbuilding industry, however there are opportunities for us to focus on our core strengths. 

Defence Turkey: Do you have any plans to cooperate with Turkish Shipyards or investment in Turkey as part of your future marketing strategy? 

As we have identified the importance of local content in the construction of Turkey’s future vessels, we certainly see the merits of cooperating with a local shipyard. 

Defence Turkey: Would you like to add some remarks for Defence Turkey readers?

As a nation, Australia has a long and proud history with Turkey which continues today. Also, IDO has been one of our strongest ferry customers over our company history. Given the maritime security challenges that Turkey faces and what we consider to be the suitability of some of our products to address these, we see the naval market as being a logical extension of our engagement in Turkey and look forward to playing an expanded role in the future.