HMAS Cairns (Defence)

Project Description

HMAS Cairns is one of few ports in Australia that can offer the Defence Department significant expansion opportunities in berth and land facilities.


HMAS Cairns employs 900 naval and civilian personnel, is the homeport for fourteen naval vessels and has a geographic boundary which extends from Rockhampton to Thursday Island. Its primary responsibility is to provide maintenance, logistic and administrative support for Cairns based units and provide refit and training support for neighbouring Pacific Island nations (Pacific Class Patrol Boats).

Additional investment in port infrastructure would provide long-term sustained growth for the Royal Australian Navy and is a strategic investment in the regional economy as well as Northern Australia. It has been calculated that for every dollar spent on defence in Cairns, the multiplier effect equates to over $5 in other sectors of the economy. Defence investment of $420M would have an impact of over $2B on the regional economy.

The rationales for basing Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) at the HMAS Cairns Base are as follows:

  • HMAS Cairns’ strategic geographical location in Northern Australia;
  • HMAS Cairns’ location is supported by and is adjacent to the Cairns Marine Precinct (which has mature sustainment capability);
  • HMAS Cairns is recognised for its efficiency and productivity, and has significant potential for expansion;
  • the existing navy base and infrastructure has the capacity to grow to accommodate the OPVs in a cost-effective manner;
  • recruitment and retention of personnel is understood to be a key issue for defence. This region boasts one of the highest retention rates in the ADF due to the lower costs of living and a lifestyle conducive to defence force families;
  • this region has demonstrated that it is “defence friendly” and is willing to work in partnership with the ADF to maintain, develop and grow its presence and capability in this region;
  • this region has the largest marine services industry in Northern Australia and could be strategically supported to further develop its capacity to support and sustain the OPVs; and

this region has the capacity to become the centre of excellence for operations, maintenance and training for OPVs.



The Federal Government has pledged $120M in this decade for investment in HMAS Cairns for the development of additional wharf space and support infrastructure and $300M in the subsequent decade.


HMAS Cairns is located within the Cairns Marine Precinct.


That Defence brings forward the second stage of its $300M pledge in HMAS Cairns to allow for a $420M spend in the decade to 2026, and commit to allocating 6 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) home based in Cairns.


CEO, Advance Cairns
Ph: 07 4080 2900

PROPONENT: Advance Cairns

Cairns Regional Council

PRIORITY: Infrastructure