SOFIA, (BM) – The two minesweepers were bought from the Netherlands for 1.9M euros and were now delivered by a heavy truck, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
The new ships of the Navy, which were bought “second hand” in the fall of last year from the Netherlands, arrived in Varna, BNR reports. They are loaded on a semi-submersible truck flying the flag of Curacao. The warships were loaded on September 7 in the Netherlands and are expected to cross the sea-lake canal before 4 pm and be launched tomorrow.
The ships were renovated, they cost our country 1.9 million euros and another 2 million levs to be transported to Bulgaria. Parliament ratified the contract for the purchase of the two minesweepers Maasluis and Hellevutsleis in early December 2019.
Both ships are of the same class as the minesweeper “Ciber”, which was bought from Belgium in 2004 – tripartite. Of these, 45 ships were built between 1981 and 1989. The project is a joint development of Belgium, the Netherlands and France, recalls National Radio.
Bulgaria begins talks with Lürssen shipyard for two new warships
On June 16 the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense (MoD) began negotiations with the German company Lurssen for the construction of two modular patrol ships for the needs of the Navy, with the project costing nearly BGN 1 billion [$580 million – ed.].
According to Defense Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, this will most likely happen today [June 16 – ed.], as the reason for the delay was the epidemic of the new coronavirus.
In practice, the procedure for acquiring the two corvettes was temporarily frozen due to a complaint by the other participant in the race – the Italian defense company Fincantieri, before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC).
It is not clear what exactly is the fate of the case at the moment, as on May 29 the magistrates classified the proceedings. However, it seems that the dispute is clearly not in favor of Finkantier”, as the Ministry of Defense has already decided to move to the next step and start negotiating with the Germans on the parameters of a possible deal, which, according to Karakachanov, should be concluded by the end of the year at the latest.
As we reported last month, the complaint is probably an attempt to sabotage the modernization program by postponing it by procedural means, according to Kapital sources. If the project is not finalized in parliament by the end of the summer or the beginning of autumn, the agreement with the Germans will hardly be able to be signed in time.
According to unofficial information, the subcontractor of the German military company will be the Bulgarian shipyard Dolphin. The company was determined as the winner in the previous attempt to implement the same project, but withdrew at the last moment, after it turned out to be surprising that 20% VAT should be deducted from the budget.
It is also claimed that Dolphin will now have to take on the “rough work” on the project and will construct the hulls of the two corvettes, while Lurrsen will take on the systematic integration of equipment and armaments.
Bulgarian replacement of Navy ships will be a costly and timely challenge
Replacing legacy and obsolete vessels with modern, multirole Western made platforms will be a costly and timely challenge, which Bulgarian Government can no longer dither over.
Unfortunately the modernisation process has consistently been mismanaged by decision-makers in Sofia prone to changing their procurement goals and technical requirements and ultimately delaying the long-awaited acquisitions.
The Bulgarian Navy continues to struggle with its operational limitations, resulting from the age, technical condition and obsolescence of currently operated naval platforms, as the country’s MoD proceeds at a slow pace with the ongoing tender for delivery of two multipurpose OPVs.
The outcome of the procurement programme was expected to be announced this summer, but due to insufficient funding has been prolonged until the end of 2019, at the earliest.
The Bulgarian tender sparked broad interest among a number of European shipyards, with three parties deciding to submit bids: the local MTG Dolphin which proposed the latest version of its K-90 vessel, Italian Fincantieri, which entered the race with a modified Abu Dhabi-class corvette design as well as the German Lürssen with a platform based on its OPV 80/85/90 series.
An interdepartmental committee, composed of experts from the Navy’s Command, MoD as well as the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs, is said to have already concluded evaluation of received offers, and selected the preferred bidder.
Conclusions are due to be presented to the council of ministers of the Bulgarian government, which is expected to approve the MoD’s suggestions and allow for the start of contract negotiations.
It is also expected that talks with the preferred bidder will commence this autumn, allowing for an agreement to be reached by the end of 2019, followed by a contract signing shortly after.
However, dependent on other manufacturers lodging formal protests and potential re-evaluations of submitted bids, further delay of the project could result. According to current estimates, the first of Bulgaria’s new OPVs could be delivered by the end of 2023, with the second arriving the following year.
The project’s budget is set at 820 million Lev ($470 million), with payments to an industry contractor spread over several years – allowing for the MoD to make adequate appropriations for other urgent procurement programmes, like the planned acquisition of 150 wheeled armoured vehicles, which has been delayed for many years.
As much as the procurement of new OPVs should significantly enhance operational capabilities of the Bulgarian Navy, it won’t however significantly change the current balance of military power in the Black Sea region.
Read more: Top 5 best submarines in the world
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