Three teams remain in the race to build new submarines for the Royal Netherlands Navy, and although the goal is to get boats that are “as Dutch as possible,” the Saab / Damen team will for the time being continue to face competition from France’s Naval Group and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp (TKMS), the Dutch daily Die Telegraaf reported Friday.
Dutch State Secretary of Defense Barbara Visser is expected to inform the House of Representatives this week about the next step of a program whose cost is estimated at approximately €3.5 billion. Despite the postponement of the selection of the winning bidder, previously scheduled this month, the defense ministry will confirm that it wants to buy four submarines, replacing the current Walrus-class boats one-for-one.
Extending the competition is somewhat of a surprise, Die Telegraaf reported. The Ministry of Defense and the Lower House feel it is better to go further with only Saab / Damen, a team that is seen as the most Dutch, and this government had promised to award large defense orders to Dutch industry as far as possible. With Damen, furthermore, valuable know-how about submarine construction would be retained in-country.
Others cabinet members, however, are concerned about the risks if the design and construction contracts are awarded to a single consortium. The government is apprehensive about a new “Walrus affair,” the financial fiasco in the 1980s that led to the construction of four Walrus-class submarines with a 65% cost overrun. Moreover, there are opposite insights from the other departments involved: Economic Affairs, Finance, Foreign Affairs and General Affairs.
For Damen it is a disappointment. The Dutch shipbuilder is the best in the candidate comparison, Die Telegraaf reported, but it now fears that Naval Group has more “endurance” because of state aid. Moreover, Damen would benefit from a quick contract award, as it already has problems with a low order portfolio.
To meet the government’s wish to involve Dutch industry in the project, France’s Naval Group has teamed with Royal IHC, a Dutch builder of offshore and dredging vessels. In TKMS’ bid, the submarines would be built by the naval company in Den Helder. A fourth player, Spain’s Navantia, is dropped.
The final choice for the builder of the new submarines will now be taken in 2021, and they will have to enter service six years later.