| Michael Owen, SA political reporter | September 21, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE commanders of the US Navy's largest fleet have held talks with South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley as the Rann government intensifies its push for a $300 million shipbuilding facility in Port Adelaide to be a new repair base for warships.
Mr Foley flew to Hawaii on Friday for high-level meetings with US naval operations chiefs and the Pacific command.
The weekend meetings in Honolulu were to capitalise on discussions held at the Pentagon a month ago between Premier Mike Rann and US defence officials about the use of South Australia's Techport facility, which includes a 213m wharf and the largest shiplift in the southern hemisphere.
Mr Foley will leave Hawaii tonight for Spain and talks with shipbuilder Navantia, which has designed the operating platform of the air warfare destroyers to be built at Techport, and the $3billion landing helicopter dock amphibious ships that will be assembled in Melbourne.
He will then go to Switzerland for meetings with military vehicle manufacturer Mowag, a unit of US firm General Dynamic, which is in line for a $2bn contract to supply light armoured vehicles to the Australian Defence Force.
Speaking to The Australian from Honolulu yesterday, Mr Foley, who is accompanied by Defence SA chief executive Andrew Fletcher on his trade mission, said there had been productive meetings with US rear admirals Scott Van Burskirk and Richard Berkey.
"This is the pointy end of a two-year program of soft-selling to the US Navy and the Pentagon for the merits of Techport as a facility that can be used by the US Navy for voyage repairs and maintenance for their ships that operate in waters close to Asia and southeast Asia," he said.
"For US ships ... when they're coming from the Middle East ... Adelaide is a viable alternative ... The US naval chiefs were extremely impressed with what we're building down at Techport. There were long discussions about its capabilities."
Mr Foley said part of the key to attracting the US Navy to Techport was that large US defence contractors such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Electric Boat and Bath Iron Works were operating from the facility.
"Australia offers a level of security and stability that comes with us being the closest ally of the US," he said.
"You can't hard-sell the US Navy, they will use what they want to use. But the senior decision-makers across the US Navy know and understand what South Australia is doing, and are incredibly impressed."
While in Spain this week, Mr Foley will meet shipbuilder Navantia and announce a $10m contract won by South Australian firm Sage Automation to supply parts and equipment. Mr Foley returns to Adelaide on October 1.