June 9, 2003

Austal to Build 10 Naval Patrol Boats for Yemen


Commercially-built vessels provide a reliable, low cost security boost.

Austal Ships has been selected from an elite group of international shipbuilders to supply a fleet of 10 high-speed patrol boats to the Republic of Yemen, Ministry of Defence. This significant contract further enhances the Australian shipbuilder’s profile as a world leading designer and builder of aluminium patrol craft.

Based on a proven hullform, built to the highest commercial standards using the latest construction techniques, and utilising proven materials and equipment from well-established international suppliers, the 37.5 metre aluminium monohulls will provide the level of capability the Yemenis require in a reliable, simple to operate vessel that is easy to maintain.

The patrol effectivenesss that such a combination ensures is also being provided at a low acquisition cost for the purchaser, with the total contract price for the 10 vessels, spares, and a substantial package of training for 60 personnel coming in at well under US$55 million.

Austal’s Sales and Product Development Manager, Mr Glenn Williams, said the vessels will re-define the whole concept of value-for-money in the global military and para-military patrol boat market.

“Until now the basic assumption of the marketplace has been that to get a well-built and equipped coastal patrol boat buyers had to turn to one of a handful of long-established naval shipbuilders, such as those in Western Europe. For most nations the vessels produced by these shipyards are well beyond the scope of the available budget,” Mr Williams said.

This has typically forced buyers to choose between acquiring antiquated, second- or third-hand vessels or a very cheap new vessel from a little-known supplier with poor credentials. Experience shows that either strategy involves significant risks of non-performance because the vessels are often ill-suited to the intended role, unreliable and difficult to maintain.

Glenn Williams says that there is nothing second-rate about the vessels Austal Ships is providing to Yemen.

“Due to the high quality of its designs and workmanship Austal is recognised as one of the world’s leading aluminium shipbuilders,” he said.

“These modern patrol boats incorporate the very best in aluminium ship design and construction to deliver a reliable, highly capable package that is made extremely cost-effective through Austal’s efficient, high productivity design and manufacturing techniques and focus on customer requirements.”

Over the last 15 years the company has built up a tremendous track record in producing first rate vessels that continually meet the needs of the most discerning users including the US military, Australia’s Customs Service, and ferry companies in Norway, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Japan and North America.

“There is no doubt that Austal will provide Yemen with a well-built, well-engineered, well-supported patrol boat fleet,” he said.

This is in stark contrast to what patrol boat buyers have come to expect when offered a low cost solution.

“More often than not new vessel ‘bargains’ are only available at low prices because corners are cut, either in the vessel itself or in other important areas such as crew training and ongoing technical support,” Mr Williams said.

“The vessels are typically either poorly designed, constructed using inferior materials and workmanship, or fitted with equipment that is often re-conditioned or not of an acceptable international standard. In the worst instances, all three may apply and be coupled with late delivery and budget over-runs.”

The end result is often that the desired patrol objectives cannot be achieved, either because the vessel does not meet the specified performance criteria or through unreliability leading to the fleet spending more time tied up than at sea.

Fit-for-purpose vessels

The patrol boats that Austal Ships is supplying to Yemen provide a budget-conscious solution to a set of operational requirements that is common to many nations. These include:


  • General police missions in coastal waters;
  • Customs control and anti-terrorist operations at sea;
  • Offshore protection and tracking;
  • Surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zone;
  • Defence and protection of national sea areas; and
  • Operations within integrated task forces.

“The package put together by Austal Ships will ensure that the Republic of Yemen Navy’s new patrol boat force will be capable of achieving tasks such as these for many years to come,” Mr Williams said.

The all-aluminium patrol boat design selected by Yemen is a slightly less complex version of Austal’s 38 metre Bay Class design, eight of which have been operating successfully with the Australian Customs Service since being delivered between February 1999 and August 2000.

Tank testing and subsequent operational use has proved the excellent seakeeping and low resistance of the deep-V, single chine, semi-displacement hullform which, combined with the light but strong aluminium construction, will allow the vessels to achieve their contract speed of 29 knots with only moderate power.

The major propulsion system components are all being supplied by highly reputable international suppliers, with Caterpillar marine diesels driving fixed pitch propellers via Reintjes gearboxes. This twin screw propulsion system blends mechanical reliability and simple, efficient operation with ease of maintenance and is backed by the suppliers’ own well-established service and spares networks.

Other important equipment items are similarly based on widely available commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, contributing to both low initial cost and long-term product support from their respective suppliers.

This includes the navigation, communication and control systems, many of which are fitted in the spacious wheelhouse. The bridge is arranged for three man operations and located for around-the horizon visibility and minimal motion, thus reducing fatigue.

Other principal onboard spaces include a dedicated operations room; ship’s office; laundry; separate mess areas for officers and crew; a well-appointed galley and adjacent food storage allowing the vessels to spend at least 14 days at sea on patrol without replenishment. A fresh water maker is fitted to supplement potable water supplies.

Based on an operating profile that foreshadows the vessels operating mostly at their cruising speed of 25 knots, the vessels have a range well in-excess of 1,000 nautical miles.

Each patrol boat will operate with a complement of 19, and will be equipped with a single berth cabin for the captain, a twin berth officers cabin, and four crew cabins (two 6-berth and two 2-berth).

The interior will be fitted to a high commercial standard, including the use of aluminium honeycomb panel, and has been arranged for maximum habitability taking into account vessel movement, noise, vibration and the flow of personnel when carrying out their shipboard duties. The onboard air conditioning will provide a comfortable working environment and has been designed taking the local climatic conditions, including extremely high air and sea temperatures, fully into account.

In order to enforce local and international laws, within Yemen’s territorial waters the patrol boats are to be fitted with a 25mm, twin barrelled naval gun and two heavy machine guns. Weapons lockers for the machine guns and small arms are fitted and ready use ammunition lockers will be located adjacent to each gun mounting.

Training package included

The patrol boat contract includes a substantial package of training for Republic of Yemen Navy personnel, the aim of which is to ensure that crews can make the best use of the vessels’ capabilities as soon as they enter service and for many years to come.

The training programme will involve six key crew members of each vessel (60 persons in total) traveling to Western Australia where they will be given a combination of tuition and practical training. This will include familiarization with the vessels while they are under construction so that crews are conversant with structural, engineering and systems considerations as well as at-sea instruction covering the capabilities and operating procedures for the new patrol boats.

The design and construction of the patrol boats will reduce the maintenance workload and costs. In particular, compared to a steel hull the aluminium construction reduces the amount of time and effort that needs to be spent on routine work such as the regular application of hull coatings.

Importantly, a group of Yemeni personnel will be given instruction and practical training in aluminium welding techniques. This technology transfer will enable the Navy to be more self-reliant by being able to undertake or supervise vessel repair and maintenance tasks at local facilities, rather than requiring assistance from contractors outside Yemen, which is likely to be inexpensive and time consuming.

These measures will assist in achieving very high levels of operational availability and peak performance.

If the Republic of Yemen Navy requires, the expertise of the Austal Service organization is also able to provide specialist assistance including the supply of spare parts and equipment, repairs and maintenance.

Winning the contract

The patrol boat capabilities of Austal Ships were first highlighted to the Republic of Yemen Navy as part of an extensive requirements and worldwide market analysis carried out by Greenwich House, an international strategic consultancy firm, in 1998.

Greenwich House had already established trade links in the defence, maritime and aerospace sectors in Yemen and analysed 24 international shipyards, including builders from Asia and eastern and western Europe, as part of its analysis.

Greenwich House was impressed by Austal’s naval design capability, value for money and short delivery times and Austal Ships was identified as the preferred supplier and continued to work with Greenwich House as the project progressed to contract stage.

Austal’s Managing Director, Mr Bob McKinnon, said the contract was won with the support of the Australian Government, including the Defence Material Organisation.

“While Austal overcame the intense international competition to win this contract on merit and without any sort of financial support or political pressure from the Australian Government, its assistance in terms of logistical and diplomatic support was important, especially during the final stages of the contract negotiations in Yemen,” Mr McKinnon said.

Australia’s Ambassador to Yemen, Mr Bob Tyson, said the Austal patrol boats would assist the Yemeni Government in its efforts to combat terrorism and illegal trafficking.

“We recognise the challenges faced by the Yemeni Government in securing the country’s borders, and have been impressed by its determination to meet those challenges,” he said.

“We strongly support this project, and congratulate Austal Ships on its successful bid. Austal has an excellent and well-deserved worldwide reputation for design, quality, training and ongoing support.”

Mr Tyson added that the Australian Government greatly valued its bilateral relationship with Yemen, which in two-way trade terms alone was worth around AUD$160 million per annum, and saw Austal’s patrol boat project as an opportunity to expand into new areas of co-operation.

A boost for RAN patrol boat project aspirations

Mr McKinnon said the contract was testament to Austal’s expertise in designing and manufacturing patrol boats and was a positive sign for the company’s bid, in conjunction with Defence Maritime Services, to construct patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy.

“This order reflects Austal’s ability to supply customer-specific patrol boats that compare favourably to anything available in the global marketplace,” Mr McKinnon said.

“The same world-class ship design and construction capabilities are also encompassed in our bid for the RAN’s SEA 1444 project and they can only benefit from the experience of building these 10 patrol boats for Yemen.”

Importantly, the production timetable for the Yemeni vessels does not adversely affect Austal’s ability to meet the RAN project’s construction and delivery schedule.

“The production schedules allow for a smooth transition between projects and the process of building the Yemeni vessels would only add further experience to Austal’s existing production and management techniques which can then be applied to the RAN project,” Mr McKinnon said.

The initial batch of four vessels for Yemen will be finished within 12 months, with the remainder delivered in pairs at two-monthly intervals, giving a total time from contract to final delivery of just 18 months.

“Although short by many shipbuilder’s standards, this production schedule is easily achievable for Austal Ships and will enable the Republic of Yemen Navy to implement its enhanced sea patrol capability in minimal time,” said Glenn Williams. “This was another important factor in Austal being awarded the contract.”

An established military supplier

The Austal group already has an impressive track record in patrol boat design and construction having already delivered the eight 38 metre Bay Class vessels for Australian Customs and nine police boats for New South Wales.

At the larger end of the military vessel spectrum the 101 metre high-speed Theatre Support Vessel “WestPac Express” provides a reliable, cost-effective method of troop and equipment transfer for the US Marine Corps’ Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). Having been in service for nearly two years, the catamaran is currently operating in the Western Pacific theatre with recent activities including deployments to Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

Mr McKinnon said the successful completion of these orders, and the international recognition provided by Austal’s short-listing for the RAN contract, had all been critical in Austal subsequently securing international orders for patrol vessels such as that for three 22 metre Coast Guard vessels for Kuwait.

In other defence-related projects, Austal is also currently building the three vessels for Kuwait and has partnered with BAE Systems for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s “Project Protector” vessel acquisition programme. In the United States, Austal USA is part of a General Dynamics-led team bidding for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project.

Length Overall: 37.5 metres
Length Waterline: 32.4 metres
Beam Moulded: 7.2 metres
Hull Depth Moulded: 5.0 metres
Hull Draft: 2.2 metres
Fuel: 27,000 litres
Fresh water: 10,000 litres
Engines: 2 x Caterpillar 3512; 1305kW at 1800rpm each
Gearboxes: 2 x Reintjes
Propellers: 2 x fixed pitch
Generators: 2 x Perkins Sabre
Maximum speed: >29 knots
Cruising speed: 25 knots
Range: 1,000 nautical miles with 20% reserve
ARMAMENT 1 x 25mm twin-barreled naval gun
2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns
Officers: 3 (incl captain)
Crew: 16
Total complement: 19
SURVEY Hull structural survey: Germanischer Lloyd X100 A5 OC3
Survey authority: Government of Western Australia in consultation with the Yemeni Marine Authority

Further Information

Contact: Austal
Phone: 61 8 9410 1111
Fax: 61 8 9410 2564