On December 2nd at Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) Galati, Romania, first steel was cut on the Royal Netherlands Navy’s (RNLN) Combat Support Ship (CSS) Den Helder. The cutting is the first of sixteen batches, totaling 7500 tonnes of steel in 180 sections. DSNS has brought the date forward in order to safeguard the project’s progress during the continuing coronavirus pandemic and to effectively manage the enhanced security rules that alter the way of working for the shipyard. This marks an important milestone in this project, the first tangible part of the construction. The steel cutting was supposed to take place in February next year.
With construction of the CSS, the maritime supply capacity of the RNLN will be restored. The vessel will operate alongside the Joint Support Ship (JSS) HNLMS Karel Doorman and is based on the same design. The vessel can operate worldwide and under high threat, protected by frigates. Additionally, she can be used in the fight against drug trafficking, controlling refugee flows and providing emergency aid. Engineering of the vessel is taking place mostly in the Netherlands and the project will provide work for over 100, mainly Dutch, companies. To date, 47 contracts have been signed for the CSS, out of which 34 with Dutch maritime suppliers.
The procurement decision for the project was announced by the Dutch Government in December 2019. DSNS signed a contract with the Defence Material Organization (DMO) for the construction of HNLMS Den Helder vessel in February 2020. Damen shipyards in Romania will undertake the construction of CSS, while the final outfitting will take place in Damen Shipyards Den Helder. Scheduled to be delivered in the second quarter of 2024, the ship is expected to become operational in the second quarter of 2025. The CSS project is estimated to cost €375m ($445m). It will supervise the project along with the DMO.
Based on the design of Karel Doorman, HNLMS Den Helder will be approximately 180m-long and will have a displacement of 22,400t. It will mainly supply fuel, ammunition and goods to other naval vessels at sea. The vessel will have the capacity to accommodate a total of 150 personnel, with 75 crew members and 75 additional people on board. It will also offer space to house two helicopters and up to 25 containers on the upper deck. The efficient design integrating an optimal combination of advanced diesel engines, propellers and hull shape will reduce fuel consumption by 6% when compared with HNLMS Karel Doorman.