EPC contract for $515m Darwin Ship Lift Facility awarded to Clough-BMD

Monica Gameng   |   September 13, 2023
Artist impression of the Darwin Ship Lift (cr: Clough)

Darwin is a step closer to becoming a thriving maritime services industry hub with the construction of the state-of-the-art ship lift facility to begin next year following the award of the main construction contract. 

The Clough-BMD Joint Venture has been awarded the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the $515 million Darwin Ship Lift Facility in the Northern Territory’s East Arm region. 

“The Clough-BMD Joint Venture is proud to have been selected to deliver the engineering, procurement and construction scope (EPC) for the development of the Darwin Ship Lift Facility by the Northern Territory (NT) Government. 

“This facility will be constructed to meet the current and long-term needs of the Department of Defence and the Australian Border Force and the needs of the general fishing and maritime sector. 

“The ship lift will have the capacity to lift vessels up to 5,500 tonnes such as the new fleet of offshore patrol vessels procured by the Australian Defence Force. As part of this project, the Clough-BMD Joint Venture will ensure to make a positive impact through business opportunities, jobs and community initiatives in the Territory,” Clough CEO Peter Bennett said. 

The two companies have demonstrated capacity to deliver key infrastructure projects in the Territory, combining local knowledge with national and global expertise. 

The joint venture’s scope of works will involve the construction, testing, commissioning, certification and handover of the new facility. 

The Darwin Ship Lift Facility development includes: 

  • A ship lift 26 metres wide, 103 metres long and with a vessel lifting capability of 5,500 tonnes 
  • Wet berths to allow vessels to undertake in-water maintenance 
  • Hard stand areas for ship repair and maintenance works 
  • Self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) units that transport the ships around the facility once they are out of the water 
  • An administration building, SPMT shed and Blast and Paint Facility 
  • East Arm utilities upgrades to support the ship lift and broader marine industry park development 

“We’re looking forward to working together with Clough and the Territory Government on this milestone project and fist-class facility. 

“BMD has operated in the Territory for over 26 years, earning a robust reputation for successful infrastructure delivery through our relationship-based approach to engage people, partners and the community, and leaving a lasting skills legacy. 

“The Clough-BMD Joint Venture is delivering the project under a local first approach and we’re committed to making a positive impact in the Territory through education, jobs, business opportunities and community initiatives,” BMD Group CEO Scott Power said. 

In June of this year, the navigation simulation and 3D hydraulic modelling were completed to ensure the ship lift’s design is fit for purpose.

Ahead of the beginning of major works on the Darwin Ship Lift Facility, global ship lift vendors as well as self-propelled modular transfer system vendors have been engaged to supply critical machinery. 

The project has been granted final environmental approvals last month following a thorough assessment of the Environmental Impact Statement by the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA). The approval highlights the project’s commitment to maintaining harmony between progress and the surrounding environment. 

Key stakeholders including the Department of Defence, Port of Darwin and Paspaley (the facility operator) were involved in the design as well as navigation simulations and planning for early works for the project. 

The Darwin Ship Lift Facility will employ up to 250 workers at peak construction period, with an average of 100 workers on site generally. The project is also expected to maintain hundreds of local jobs within the maritime support sector when the facility is completed. 

Once up and running, the ship lift facility will operate on a commercial basis. A legislated open access regime is going to be established to ensure fair and equal use of the facility for all customers. Meanwhile, pricing and access will be overseen by the independent Utilities Commission. 

Several components of the Darwin Ship Lift Facility are anticipated to be completed in early 2025, with the remaining components to be completed in 2025-26. 

The new facility is funded by the Northern Territory Government with a $215 million investment along with a $300 million concessional loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

“This is an exciting time for the maritime industry as a whole, the Darwin Ship Lift will act as a key maintenance centre for the region. 

“Over the past 12 months, we have been working hard to ensure construction can begin as soon as the head contract is awarded. 

“As we progress with the Darwin Ship Lift, we create more jobs for Territorians and strive towards our goal of a $40 billion economy by 2030,” Minister for Territory Development Eva Lawler said. 

Source: Northern Territory Government Newsroom; Investment Territory; BMD Group; Clough 

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Monica Gameng
As Felix's Marketing Assistant since 2015, Monica is responsible for researching and sharing new and progressing projects within the construction and mining sectors in Australia. It's no surprise that Monica has her finger on the pulse of Australian major projects given she has produced more than 1,000 posts. She truly is an industry expert.
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