The Royal Australian Navy’s fleet is expanding and will be able to further sustain its edge at sea with the opening of the first of four regional maintenance centres in Cairns this week.

NORSTA Maritime was announced as the regional maintenance provider to deliver the Regional Maintenance Centre North East in Cairns.

Speaking at the NORSTA Maritime shipyard after the contract signing, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said under the five-year $70 million dollar contract, NORSTA would coordinate, schedule and manage maintenance for the current and future Navy fleet based in Cairns.

“NORSTA Maritime has an established regional presence and proven ability to coordinate the sustainment and maintenance of naval vessels,” Mr Dutton said.

Mr Dutton said Cairns’ naval precinct would play an increasingly important role in supporting the RAN into the future.

“Regional Maintenance Centre North East will tap into the talent of the more than 4000 people employed in Cairns’ maritime precinct and create additional jobs for local workers,” Mr Dutton said.

NORSTA Maritime will build a regional sovereign sustainment capability by developing and maintaining supply chains and nurturing existing regional capabilities, further promoting Australian industry involvement and providing jobs.

Regional Maintenance Centre North East in Cairns is the first of four maintenance centres to be developed at strategic ports around the country. The other three centres will be located in Henderson WA, Darwin and Sydney.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Deputy Chief of Navy Rear Admiral Christopher Smith, board HMAS Leeuwin during their visit to HMAS Cairns. Photos: Leading Seaman Shane Cameron

Head Maritime Systems Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm said the regional maintenance centres would bring together industry and Defence to sustain the significantly larger and more complex fleet resulting from the continuous naval shipbuilding program.

“Our regional maintenance centres will overhaul the way Navy maintains its fleet, ensuring each centre will be able to provide a level of maintenance to any surface ship,” Rear Admiral Malcolm said.

“Sustaining Navy’s current and future fleet is a long-term endeavour and personnel will be required for decades to come, further supporting local jobs and diversifying the regional economy.”

Regional Maintenance Centre North East will be operating by the end of 2022 and will initially support the Evolved Cape-Class Patrol Boats before becoming the sustainment hub for the Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels, which are under construction.