Poor quality aluminum imported from China is blamed for the delayed delivery of the Royal Australian Navy’s new advanced $ 350 million Cape-class patrol boats.

In May of last year, Western Australian shipbuilder Austal won a contract to build six of the 58-meter vessels to replace the Navy’s aging Armidale-class patrol fleet.

The ABC can now reveal that the launch date for the new fleet has been delayed after a “quality problem” was detected in a batch of aluminum from China.

A spokesperson for the company said that “the aluminum was independently certified by a globally accredited certification company before arriving at Austal.”

Austal said most of the aluminum purchased by its Australian distributor came from China, but the affected plant and certification lab had now been removed from its list of accepted suppliers.

“Austal operates a complete supply chain and manufacturing traceability system. So, upon being made aware of the quality issue, the company was able to identify any out-of-specification aluminum in use and replace it on vessels affected. “

Since 2016, Austal has been running a joint venture in China with the Guangdong Jianglong Shipbuilding Company called Aulong Shipbuilding, which builds “commercial passenger and non-military vessel opportunities”.

Austal, which owns a 40 percent stake in Aulong Shipbuilding, has licensed a number of its “proven designs of commercial aluminum vessels” for marketing across mainland China.

The ABC has also reached out to Defense to comment on the delays caused by Chinese aluminum, but the department has yet to respond.

The delays in the patrol boat project were, however, officially acknowledged by the Defense Capability Acquisition and Maintenance Group (CASG) in a report obtained by Labor MP Pat Conroy under Freedom of Information.

According to the most recent CASG project and support report from February, “the construction of Boats 1 and 2 was affected by the supply to Austal of materially deficient aluminum which required remedial work on these boats.”

The defense stated that “the overall availability of the patrol boats will not be adversely affected” by the delays of the new fleet.

The department admitted, however, that “additional expenses will be incurred due to the additional maintenance required for some of the existing Armidale-class patrol vessels.”

The Australian Border Force (ABF) currently operates eight Cape-class boats, while the Navy leases two more ships, meaning the country’s fleet is expected to eventually grow to 16.

Earlier this week, the ABC revealed that a powerful new cabinet committee had been formed to tackle issues related to Australia’s multibillion-dollar shipbuilding plan.

The National Shipbuilding Advisory Council (NSAB) has been abolished, although its former chairman, Professor Don Winter, is now working as special advisor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a three-year contract worth 1.5 million bucks.