WORK to boost Defence’s fuel storage and refuelling capabilities at Larrakeyah Barracks near the Darwin CBD will start in the middle of next year following the awarding of a $26m contract.

The Larrakeyah Defence Precinct Redevelopment Program (LDPRP) was awarded by the managing contractor construction company Laing O’Rourke to Saunders International.

Saunders International is a New South Wales based engineering and construction firm that specialises in the design, construction and maintenance of steel bulk storage tanks and associated facilities.

Under the contract, Saunders will build two 1.75 megalitre diesel fuel tanks, the tank farm pump facility, piping, and fire, water, electrical, and safety services

The fuel storage project is expected to take around 18 months to complete.

The LDPRP will enhance the Australian Defence Force’s capacity to undertake operations in the north of Australia and provide fuel storage and refuelling capabilities to meet the growing demand, which includes the basing of six of the 12 forthcoming Arafura Class Offshore Patrol Vessels in Darwin.

The contract follows hot on the heels of a visit to the Top End by Federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds last week and the announcement of the fast tracking of $190m in spending for Defence upgrades and new facilities in the Northern Territory at RAAF Base Darwin, Robertson Barracks, Larrakeyah Defence Precinct, RAAF Tindal, as well as training areas and ranges.

Senator Reynolds also reaffirmed the Federal Government’s intention to establish a multimillion-dollar US-funded, commercially-operated strategic military fuel reserve in Darwin.

She said the plan for the fuel reserve came at a time when the strategic importance of the Northern Territory for Australia’s northern defence had never been more vital.

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