A Unanderra factory that has largely sat idle for the past 25 years has been transformed into a national hub to distribute precision-engineered steel for critical defence, infrastructure and energy projects.
The BlueScope Distribution Hub was officially opened on Thursday evening and national operations manager at BlueScope Distribution Michael McPhan said the facility was about adding value to steel produced in the Port Kembla steelworks.
"We'll bring plate steel in from Port Kembla steelworks or from Bisalloy across the road, we'll cut it to the customer's requirements, including all the weld prep, we'll mark, drill, etch and deliver it to the customer nationally on their schedule, so they can do what they do best and put it together," Mr McPhan said.
Previously, steel produced at Port Kembla would have to go to a third party to be finished before being delivered to a fabricator, and by having the Hub in Unanderra, Mr McPhan said that the middle-man is cut out, reducing costs and improving outcomes for the final assembly and avoiding the need to purchase cheaper, overseas steel.
"It gives the Australian community confidence that there is a local supply chain solution that can handle those sorts of projects," he said.
The facility's opening comes as local politicians call for greater use of Australian steel in large-scale renewable energy projects.
Wollongong MP Paul Scully said in a speech to NSW Parliament on Tuesday night that promised commitments to local materials in renewable projects were yet to be realised.
"Illawarra industry stood poised, ready to be part of the evolution of energy generation, and to support and create more jobs," he said.
Mr Scully called on NSW Treasurer Matt Kean to implement guarantees made in 2020 to prioritise local steel for the delivery of Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) in NSW.
With the BlueScope steelworks already operating at almost full capacity, Mr McPhan said that the Distribution Hub would enable the company to meet the growth in demand for high quality, locally made steel.
"We need something like 200,000 tons of extra pipe production each year for the next decade just to deliver on those projects," Mr McPhan said. "So this is a first small step in helping Australian manufacturers increase their capability to deliver on those projects."
Being located in Unanderra gave the site natural advantages to supply projects around the country, said Sam Gerovasilis, general manager BlueScope Distribution.
"The most important thing about the Hub is it's near the steelworks, the harbour, the rail network and there's a lot of good skilled labour capabilities in Wollongong.
BlueScope Distribution has so far invested $6.9 million in the site and employs 25 people in Unanderra, there are plans to grow that in the future.
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