Industry Networks in the Australian Marine Complex: Strategic Networking within the Western Australian Maritime Engineering Sector

TitleIndustry Networks in the Australian Marine Complex: Strategic Networking within the Western Australian Maritime Engineering Sector
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2004
Tertiary AuthorsMazzarol, T
PublisherCentre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation (CEMI)
TypeIndustry Research Report
KeywordsAustralian Marine Complex, industry clustering

This study examined strategic networking and alliance formation within the Australian Marine Complex (AMC) located in the Cockburn Sound area of Western Australia. This is now a major focal-point for the manufacture of high speed aluminium ferries, luxury yachts, defence related shipbuilding and repair and the construction of offshore oil and gas platforms. Over the past thirty-five years, the industry has evolved until it has secured a strong position both nationally and internationally. Significant government investment in the AMC at Henderson on Cockburn Sound and the HMAS Stirling Fleet Base West, has assisted this cluster formation and growth. The study was undertaken by CEMI with the support of the WA Department of Industry and Resources (DOIR) and involved the GSM-MBA students from the 2003 class of the Networks and Alliances for Innovation and Enterprise 627 unit. The methodology used in the study involved the identification of key industry sub-sectors (e.g. shipbuilding, boatbuilding, offshore oil and gas and defence); a literature review, a survey of firms in the industry and case study development of selected firms. A total of 16 cases were prepared. The study identified that the Western Australian marine engineering industries have grown into a strong and internationally competitive industry cluster, based around the Australian Marine Complex (AMC). There was evidence of strong local production networks within the AMC and many key suppliers worked closely with the firms to innovate or lower costs. A strong interpersonal network was found to exist among the firms and with their suppliers, subcontractors and related and supporting industries. Within each sub-sector the pattern of social interaction differed, but industry associations and professional bodies served to channel the flow of human capital and facilitate the exchange of ideas. Despite this success many firms expressed concern over what they saw as gaps in the skilled labour market, particularly in such areas as fibreglass fabricators, defence subcontractors, acoustics engineers, naval architects and shipwrights. There was also a perceived shortage of qualified and experienced managers. Linkages between the local universities and the industry for research and development (R&D) were weak, and some TAFE and university courses were considered inadequate.

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