Common User Facility

The Cairns Marine Precinct (CMP) faces soaring demand globally and locally for its maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services, operating at full or near capacity.

To address this, both federal and state governments pledged $360m for a Common User Facility (CUF) to bolster CMP’s capabilities, crucial for future defense and maritime industry growth. Urgent collaboration is needed to expedite the CUF’s delivery, securing ample funding for the project.

This initiative gains significance amidst heightened geopolitical tensions, emphasising the Indo-Pacific engagement focus. Rapid action is imperative to capitalise on the CMP’s potential and meet the escalating market demand in the evolving global landscape.

Benefits to the region

The proposed developments offer a multitude of benefits aimed at bolstering the Far North Queensland (FNQ) economy. They contribute to enhancing capability, capacity, and competitiveness in the region, establishing Cairns as a premier maritime Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) destination. Moreover, this expansion initiative is poised to generate employment opportunities, strengthening the future of approximately 4,600 jobs associated with the Cairns maritime industry.

Furthermore, it’s expected to attract substantial investment, thereby fostering economic growth and reinforcing the attractiveness of the region for both local and foreign investors. Additionally, these advancements align with strategic roadmaps such as the Queensland Defence Industries 10-year roadmap, the Queensland Superyacht Strategy 2018-2028, and the Defence Strategic Review, showcasing a commitment to progress and align with broader strategic goals at state and national levels.


To meet rapidly growing demand and realise full economic benefit, the Queensland Government works with the Australian Government to expedite delivery of the Cairns maritime Common User Facility and commit to having an operational ship lift by 2027.

Project overview

The Cairns Marine Precinct (CMP) has continued to face rapidly growing demand domestically and globally, with maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) providers operating at or near capacity and struggling to meet market demand¹.

Federal and state governments have committed $360m towards the delivery of a maritime Common User Facility (CUF) to increase the capacity and capability of the CMP, allowing the precinct to deliver on future defence and maritime industry business. Given the work that is currently being turned away, it is now vital federal and state governments work together to accelerate delivery of the CMP CUF whilst, critically, ensuring sufficient funding to deliver on the project is allocated. The importance of this project becomes even more apparent in the context of the current geopolitical environment and increased focus on engagement with the Indo-Pacific.

In April 2023, the Australian Government’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) outlined the force structure, posture and capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over the coming decades. Key to this and one of six key priority areas identified by the Albanese Government was the need to improve the ADF’s ability to operate from Australia’s northern bases. As Australia’s most northern naval base on the eastern seaboard, HMAS Cairns plays a key strategic role in the nation’s defence capability, currently undergoing a $240m upgrade to accommodate at least four of the 12 Arafura-class Offshore Patrol Vessels.

In addition to HMAS Cairns, the precinct is also home to the first of four strategically located Regional Maintenance Centres (RMC) established under Defence’s Plan Galileo. RMCs are tasked with the ongoing maintenance and sustainment of multiple classes of Royal Australian Navy surface fleet which are expected to be significantly larger and more complex as a result of the continuous naval shipbuilding program. While the tonnage of the fleet is expected to increase by 132% across Australia from 2010-2048, Cairns’ RMC North-East will see the largest increase of 200%². Fast-tracked delivery of the CUF is critical to attracting further home ported vessels, ensuring regional sovereign sustainment capability and benefit to local industry.

This expedited delivery would also see Queensland support and strengthen Australia’s strategic, partnerships, alliances and dialogues such as AUKUS and the QUAD. Cairns’ strategic importance and longstanding status as the premier maintenance and sustainment destination for the region has seen a significant increase in visitation from foreign Defence and border force vessels with this trend only expected to escalate.

In order to meet growing demand and capitalise on these time sensitive defence and maritime opportunities while supporting local industry, it is vital the Queensland Government work with the Australian Government to ensure expedited delivery of the CMP CUF as well as ensuring sufficient funding is provided to deliver the project.

In the interim, the Queensland Government is urged to accelerate allocation of $12m (matched funding) for the city’s three shipyards pledged as part of the Industry Partnership Program. These upgrades are the latest phase of government investment in building sovereign capability in the yards – with ongoing investment required given the significance of the assets in the region.

¹ PricewaterhouseCoopers (2022). Cairns Marine Precinct Infrastructure Investment Detailed Business Case.

This submission marks the first phase of Advance Cairns’ advocacy ahead of the 2024-25 Queensland Budget.

Last updated: 17 November 2023

2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission

View the full list of projects and policies that feature in our 2024-25 Queensland Budget Submission.