Birdon beat off global defence players for the new boats. Photo: Glenn Campbell
As one regional NSW shipyard warns of job losses, another group is gearing up for more work after fighting off global rivals to win a large defence contract in the US.
Privately owned Port Macquarie marine contractor Birdon has won a $US259 million ($286 million) contract to supply specialty naval craft to the US army.
In the process, it beat off major global defence contractors such as General Dynamics.
Birdon managing director Jamie Bruce said the contract was a global endorsement of the strength of Australian research and development capability and the potential of its defence industry.
"This contract is a win for Australian innovation," he said. "The tender process for US defence contracts is among the most competitive in the world and, to win this one, Birdon beat off a number of globally recognised suppliers.
''That's a testament to the expertise and ingenuity that exists in our defence industry and manufacturing sector generally."
To win the contract, Birdon had to beat a protest that challenged its eligibility. The protest has finally been dismissed.
Birdon is to supply as many as 374 ''bridge erection boats'', which support temporary floating bridges when existing bridges have been damaged or destroyed.
The design is based on one Birdon developed a decade ago for the Australian army.
To win the contract, Birdon had to have a US base. It now has one after buying a group based in Arkansas.
The contract could lead to more work elsewhere.
"This contract demonstrates that small to medium-sized Australian businesses can compete with established international players,'' Mr Bruce said.
The win for Birdon comes after Newcastle naval contractor Forgacs warned of extensive job losses if the federal government did not commit to awarding additional naval contracts.