One of the Norwegian navy‚Äôs five new, expensive frigates has been permanently berthed at the Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen where it serves mostly as a supplier of spare parts for the other four frigates that collectively cost Norwegian taxpayers NOK 20 billion.
Newspaper¬†Aftenposten¬†reported Monday that reserve parts otherwise weren‚Äôt included in the Norwegian military‚Äôs deal with the Spanish shipyard where the vessels were built.
The five vessels¬†KNM Fridtjof Nansen, KNM Otto Sverdrup, KNM Roald Amundsen, KNM Thor Heyerdahland¬†KNM Helge Ingstad¬†were supposed to all be sailing on military duty for Norway as a proud and visible symbol of Norwegian sovereignty, not least in the Arctic.
Instead, only one of the vessels, theFridtjof Nansen, is currently on active duty (part of anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia) while the¬†Roald Amundsen¬†and¬†Thor Heyerdahl¬†are undergoing maintenance. The¬†Helge Ingstad¬†is reportedly operative, but also berthed in Bergen.
Sharing and swapping equipment
It‚Äôs the fate of the¬†Otto Sverdrup¬†that received unflattering, front-page attention inAftenposten¬†on Monday. It‚Äôs permanently tied up, the paper reports, stripped of many of its parts because they‚Äôve been needed on the other frigates.¬†Aftenposten¬†reported that several military sources, independent of one another, confirmed that the¬†Otto Sverdrup¬†is now unable to sail as a warship itself, and it likely will be a long time if it ever will.
The reason is that the Norwegian government paid more than NOK 20 billion for the ships, which grabbed lots of headlines while under construction because of delays and cost overruns, without securing an operating and spare-parts agreement with the Spanish Navantia yard where they were built. The higher costs of the frigates reportedly are blamed for the reluctance of the Norwegians to also pay for an ongoing service agreement.
That means the frigates have been sharing and swapping both maritime equipment, parts and weapons in accordance with their assignments,¬†Aftenposten¬†reported. When asked how many of the five vessels, the first of which sailed triumphantly up the Oslo Fjord on June 1, 2006 after it was delivered, are now fully operative and with the military might they‚Äôre supposed to have,¬†Aftenposten¬†was told ‚Äúone.‚Äù
The Norwegian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, hasn‚Äôt saved money by refusing to enter into an operating- and parts deal with the Spaniards,¬†Aftenposten¬†was told, because the prices charged by the private Bergen Group that now services the vessels are high as well.
Officials at the defense department‚Äôs logistics organization FLO¬†(Forsvarets logistikkorganisasjon), which has administrative responsibility for the frigates, didn‚Äôt want to comment on the situation beyond calling it ‚Äúproblematic.‚Äù Marianne √òiahals, information director for FLO, told¬†Aftenposten¬†that the frigates‚Äô operative status was ‚Äúclassified.‚Äù
Nor would the Defense Ministry comment on the situation for the five frigates, even though it was responsible for their purchase from the Spanish yard and for their operation. One official confirmed, however, that two of the vessels are currently undergoing maintenance and used in training. He insisted that the operation of the frigates was in accordance with an ‚Äúapproved concept‚Äù that was performing well.¬†He wouldn‚Äôt say when or if the Otto Sverdrup would be ready to sail, repeating that was ‚Äúclassified‚Äù information as well.