‘Delaying Dutch Submarine Contract May Also Have an Upside’

The Dutch Government has decided to postpone the decision as to who will build the new Dutch submarines to 2021. Maritime industry is displeased, but SWZ|Maritime’s naval expert Jaap Huisman also sees a positive side. ‘This postponement may give time to pay attention to quality and finances as well as to cultural differences and different working methods.’

The Royal Netherlands Navy will need four new submarines to replace the Walrus Class between 2027 and 2031. Three companies are still competing for the multi-billion euro project: Swedish Saab Kockums, the French Naval, and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) from Germany. Saab and Naval have Dutch partners, Damen and Royal IHC respectively.

‘They must now present their best possible bid,’ said Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge on Friday 13 December. According to De Jonge, so far, no party really stood out. Navantia, however, did not make the cut. ‘The Spaniards could not deliver what we want,’ said the Deputy Prime Minister.

Dutch Involvement

It is important that the ‘costs remain manageable,’ said De Jonge. In addition, the government is committed to the greatest possible involvement of Dutch companies. There will be a ministerial committee led by the Prime Minister, who will give political direction to the project.

Contract to Be Signed in 2022

The Ministry of Defence has earmarked at least 2.5 billion euros for the replacement, but this will certainly increase further. De Jonge assumes that this cabinet will still decide on the choice of the builder in 2021. The contract can then be signed in 2022 according to the current schedule.

Dutch Maritime Industry Unhappy

The Dutch maritime industry has indicated that it is not happy with the decision. The industry association of shipyards, suppliers and service providers (Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT)) calls on the government to make a decision as soon as possible ‘in the interests of Dutch industry and to create employment in the short term’.

NMT fears the decision may still land with the next Cabinet. ‘The delay that this decision threatens to cause puts the Dutch maritime industry at a disadvantage and results in even higher start-up costs,’ the organisation says in a statement. According to NMT, waiting longer also threatens the upkeep of the knowledge needed to build such complex vessels in the Netherlands.

Fear of Changing Plans with New Government

SWZ|Maritime’s naval expert Jaap Huisman has been involved in naval construction projects in a variety of positions throughout his career with either the Royal Netherlands Navy or the Dutch Ministry of Defence. When asked, he admits that ‘we are – I think – afraid that postponement will only lead to even more delays once a new Government is formed. I think that the greatest concern is that this government will no longer make a decision at all and pass it on to the next one, and then new plans will be made and new priorities will be set.’

‘In any case, the timetable will be very tight, depending on what changes need to be made to the existing design in order to be able to meet the Dutch requirements,’ he adds.

Small Upside

However, extra time offers opportunities as well. Huisman: ‘We will be working with foreign partners for decades to come, for which differences in working methods and culture need to be bridged. It is quite a big difference whether you are working with France or Sweden. This postponement offers time to also look at this.’

Picture: Jaap Huisman says cultural differences are important when selecting a partner you will have to work with for the next few decades.

This post is partly based on information from ANP.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.