In a so-called A Letter to the House of Representatives, the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced its intention to replace ten separate naval support vessels. The aim is to facilitate “family formation” as much as possible.

In other words, no identical vessels, but as many similarities as possible in systems and spatial layouts. The application of functional modules is also being considered. Design studies have apparently made it clear that, despite the differences, the vessels have sufficient ‘similar characteristics’ to allow ‘economies of scale’ to be exploited. So cost savings in the field of maintenance and training. Systems will be commercial-off-the-shelf, unless military requirements are necessary.

In the B phase of the process the acquisition strategy will be determined. This will certainly involve European tendering in accordance with the applicable procedures.

The auxiliary vessels that will be replaced are:

  • HNLMS Mercuur, a torpedo training ship built by De Schelde, commissioned in 1987, displacement 1400 tonnes, length 64.8 metres, speed 14 knots.
  • HNLMS Soemba, diving training vessel for army and navy, built in 1989, displacement 410 tonnes, length 42 metres, speed 8 knots.
  • Diving vessels of the Cerberus class, built by shipyard Visser in den Helder in 1992; the HNLMS Cerberus and HNLMS Argus, displacement 222.8 tonnes, length 27.94 metres, speed 10.5 knots, and the HNLMS Hydra and HNLMS Nautilus, displacement 340 tonnes, length 38.47 metres, speed 10.5 knots.
  • HNLMS Kinsbergen, naval training vessel built by Damen Shipyards, put into service in 1999, displacement 670 tonnes, length 41.5 metres, width 8.6 metres, speed 24 knots. This vessel is equipped with a “training bridge” next to the navigation bridge. It was hoped it would have better seakeeping characteristics than the old Zeefakkel, but it was not a real improvement and this will be the reason for the early replacement.
  • HNLMS Snellius and HNLMS Luymes, hydrographic survey vessels, built by Damen, commissioned in 2003 and 2004, displacement 1875 tonnes, length 75 metres, width 13.1 metres, diesel-electric propulsion 1150 kW, speed 12 knots.
  • HNLMS Pelikaan (picture), logistic support vessel for the Caribbean, built by Damen at the Galatz shipyard, put into service in 2006, displacement 1150 tonnes, length 65.4 metres, breadth 13.20 metres, speed 14.5 knots. Its primary task is transport of marines and military equipment. There was a limitation for the length of the ship due to existing infrastructure that was later removed. This results in that it is now somewhat limited in cargo capacity. Perhaps this is the reason that it is being replaced sooner than anticipated.

This article also appeared in Dutch in SWZ|Maritime’s June 2020 naval special. It was written by SWZ|Maritime’s naval editor Jaap Huisman.