Shipbuilder Birdon will complete the construction of three new Sydney Harbour-bound ferries in Port Macquarie on NSW's North Coast when they arrive back in Aussie waters next month.
The NSW ferry replacement program has come under fire by the Opposition and unionists who slammed the Berejiklian government last year when leaked emails, from private ferries contractor Transdev, revealed it planned to source 13 new Sydney ferries from China and Indonesia.
State opposition leader Jodi McKay has accused the Premier of breaking her promise to NSW manufacturing workers by keeping work local.
Three new Emerald class ferries will be introduced on the F1 Manly route, with a new fleet of 10 river class vessels to replace the current SuperCats and HarbourCats.
The email revealed the three Emerald class vessels would be constructed in China, while the river class vessels would be constructed in Indonesia, all under the management of Birdon, the Canberra Times reported in October.
Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance said the three new Emerald class ferries will arrive from China, via Newcastle, in early December before being towed to Port Macquarie for completion.
"COVID-19 has impacted supply chains and overseas travel restrictions meant Birdon and their Australian based surveyors and commissioning engineers were not able to visit and finalise the required tests," Mr Constance said.
"To ensure the work is completed in a reasonable time, Transport for NSW asked ferry operator Transdev and shipbuilder Birdon to look at other options to finish the work.
"Given these unprecedented set of circumstances, it was decided that the best option was to complete the remaining work on home soil."
Birdon sourced all major components such as engines, propulsion train and electronic equipment in Australia.
Ms McKay said when the contract details were revealed, it was a "savage blow" for workers in the Hunter, mid-north coast and Sydney areas, where "ferry-building capacity exists".
"We should be building these ferries here in NSW and, if anything, exporting our expertise to the rest of the world," she said.
Work to complete the ferries is expected to begin around mid-December. The contract completion will create 18 new jobs on the Birdon team.
Mr Constance said despite all the "misconceptions" around the ferry contract the state government is thrilled to have the job completed by a Port Macquarie company, creating local jobs.
"People need to know 70 per cent of the work has happened here in Australia, and two thirds of the component parts in the vessels are Australian," Mr Constance said.
That 70 per cent, Mr Constance explained, includes design, procurement, engineering, sourcing of component parts and project management.
The construction of the hulls and fabrication of the vessels has been completed in shipyards in the Asian region.
"The decision in terms of doing the fabrication has been driven by the demand of the commuters wanting to get on the vessels in Sydney so we've had to do this at speed. Birdon has done this," he said.
"Ultimately, these are Australian-made vessels."
Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said the Emerald class ferries will undergo a final fit out, commissioning and trials in Port Macquarie after arriving Australia with the main structures complete and the engines installed.
"This is a great opportunity for local tradies to secure work on the Emerald fleet as the region continues to recover from the economic crisis," Mrs Williams said.
NSW's First Fleet ferries are currently being refurbished at Birdon's Port Macquarie facility.