Australia will not hold an open tender to replace its ageing Collins-class submarines, government officials said yesterday, a decision that bolsters Japan's position as the likely builder of the new multibillion-dollar fleet. It was reported in September that Australia was leaning towards buying as many as 12 off-the-shelf stealth submarines from Japan despite domestic pressure to build them at home. Since then, several European defence contractors have said they would be price-competitive with Japan and do the work in Australia in a bid to win a piece of the overall A$40 billion (HK$262.9 billion) submarine programme. But the Australian government did not have time for an open bidding process, said Treasurer Joe Hockey. "We need to make decisions now, and we don't have time to go through a speculation process," Hockey told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. A spokesman for Defence Minister David Johnston said no manufacturer had yet been chosen. Sources have said Australia is strongly considering a replacement for the Collins based on the 4,000-tonne Soryu-class ships built by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries. They have said Canberra wanted a new lithium-ion battery propulsion system, which experts say will give submarines better underwater range and speed compared to other diesel-electric vessels . Tokyo's next generation of Soryu submarines will be the world's first to be powered by the new technology.