Cairns will continue to strengthen its position as a leading marine maintenance hub in Australia and the Pacific after securing a $70-million, five-year contract with the navy.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton made the announcement in Cairns this morning, which also includes an additional $14.3 million contract.

Cairns company NORSTA Maritime – a partnership between Norship and Tropical Reef Shipyard – has been awarded the $70-million contract to establish the Cairns Regional Maintenance Centre, otherwise known as RMC North East. 


It will be the first of four maintenance centres to open around Australia, with others to be built in Henderson in Western Australia, Darwin and Sydney.

Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, said the contract would offer long-term employment opportunities for the region.


“That’s why the Morrison Government is investing $70 million to deliver the Cairns Regional Maintenance Centre that will further enhance our reputation as the leading marine maintenance and sustainability hub in Northern Australia and the Pacific,” Mr Entsch said.

“As more naval ships are maintained here, additional defence and industry personnel will be required, which will create local jobs and boost our local economy.

“The Cairns Regional Maintenance Centre is the first in the nation to be established and will be operational by the end the year.”

RMC North East will also initially support the evolved Cape class patrol boats.

Minister Dutton said the contract includes incentives to ensure local and regional small and medium businesses are given a fair opportunity to compete for work. 

“This model will build Australian industry capability, with local industry set to benefit from reduced barriers to entry and administrative overheads, as well as greater certainty and predictability so that they can better plan and invest,” Dutton said.

“As the Regional Maintenance Provider in Cairns, NORSTA Maritime will be a vital part of the integrated workforce, performing management services, coordinating and scheduling maintenance and developing and stewarding sovereign sustainment capability.”

Minister Dutton also announced the federal government’s decision to award a $14.3-million contract extension with BAE Systems Australia.

The contract, expected to support 60 local jobs, will continue the company’s in-service support arrangements of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of hydrographic platforms – also based in Cairns.

Hydrographic surveys include information necessary to prepare nautical charts, including water depths, navigation channels, structures (such as piers) and breakwaters. 

“This contract extension recognises the outstanding partnership between Defence [and] BAE Systems Australia as we continue to the support the important work delivered by defence industry in Far North Queensland,” he said. 

australian navy

Main points

  • A Cairns company has been awarded a $70m contract to establish the country's first regional maintenance centre
  • The Australian Navy and Minister for Defence made the announcement in Cairns today
  • The five-year contract is expected to boost local jobs and strengthen Cairns' role as a strategic gateway to the Pacific
Cairns is a strategically important location for the Royal Australian Navy.
Warren Entsch
Member for Leichhardt