The state government is hopeful US Navy ships will again start docking in Fremantle. Morale-boosting visits to WA for American sailors in the region could soon be on the rise, after the Secretary of the US Navy Richard Spencer flagged an interest in sending more ships to Fremantle.
After making the pitch to Mr Spencer at the Pentagon as part of his visit to Washington, Premier Mark McGowan told The West Australian that the senior naval official had been “receptive” to the idea of reviving port visits to Fremantle.
He said it had been two years since the last US Navy ship visited WA, with the frequency diminished because of a change in the navy’s “operational tempo”.
The pair also discussed the benefits of WA’s repair and maintenance facilities at Austal’s Henderson shipyards.
Mr McGowan is pitching for visits from a full US Navy carrier battle group, which has the potential to inject up to $20 million to the State economy each time it docks in port.
“He was receptive, very warm, and indicated that is something that they would consider,” he said.
“They are increasing their fleet and they do need to always take account of the morale of their sailors.”
A carrier battle group includes a crew of about 5000 on the aircraft carrier and another 7000 sailors on eight accompanying battleships.
The economic boost from the visit would come not just from tourism while sailors were ashore but also from repairs, maintenance and any provisioning for the group.
Mr McGowan, who was in Washington as part of a political and business delegation led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, has also invited Mr Spencer to visit WA when he comes to Australia in May.
Securing the American visits would be a coup for WA and Mr McGowan said he was heartened that Mr Spencer acknowledged Australian ports were viewed as among the best in the world.
“You have to take account of the morale of the sailors, you have to remember they spend weeks and months at sea,” Mr McGowan said. “Staying in the navy is something they want them to do, and if they get to go to places that are enjoyable you make their career more worthwhile.”
Mr McGowan also managed to meet Texas Governor Greg Abbott during the visit to pursue his ambition of a new sister-state relationship with America’s second-biggest State economy.He said that Mr Abbott had been “very keen” on the idea, and the two leaders had pledged to pursue a new deal.