Dutch industry must be involved as much as possible in the procurement of new defence equipment, including the new submarines and particularly in (niche) areas where the Netherlands still has a lot of high-quality knowledge. So say the Netherlands Industries for Defence and Security (NIDV), Netherlands Maritime Technology (NMT), and employers’ organisations FME and VNO-NCW in a joint appeal.
‘In the current tender process for the new submarines, for example, there is no requirement for Dutch industry to be involved in the construction. This creates the risk that Dutch companies will soon be left out in the cold’, according to the four organisations, which are asking politicians for guarantees.
Maintaining new submarines
‘Submarines are very complex,’ says Bas Ort, NMT chairman, ‘and it is very difficult to maintain and improve them if you have never been involved in their construction. The crucial knowledge and expertise of Dutch maritime companies must be retained for construction and maintenance. This is only possible by involving the Dutch industry in the order.’
Moreover, maintenance is not expected to take place until 2040. Dutch companies would have to retain their knowledge and expertise until then, without being able to use it immediately. This is a major challenge, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Strategic autonomy and innovative strength
Furthermore, the foreign shipyard that eventually wins the tender has no reason to involve Dutch industry in the high-tech systems in the submarine.
‘While a role in these systems is essential for Dutch strategic autonomy and innovative strength. Innovation keeps our equipment modern and makes us an important partner for companies from EU and NATO countries,’ explains FME chairman Theo Henrar.
The Netherlands has expertise
The current Dutch Walrus-class submarines can continue to sail for much longer thanks to recent life-extending maintenance – carried out by the Dutch maritime engineering industry.
Hans Hillen, NIDV chairman: ‘This demonstrates the expertise that the Netherlands currently has in-house. United in the Dutch Underwater Knowledge Centre, the Dutch industry has also offered its expertise to the candidate yards.’
Importance of a healthy defence sector
Defence, industry and knowledge institutes in the Netherlands often work together and do so successfully. This makes a major contribution to Dutch security and strategic autonomy.
Ingrid Thijssen, chair of VNO-NCW: ‘The innovations that come out of this cooperation often have spill-over effects to the rest of the economy. In addition, the Netherlands has an enormous knowledge base in the maritime field that we should cherish and with which we can distinguish ourselves in the EU when building all the new defence capacity that is currently taking place.’
In the letter sent by the four organisations, Dutch Parliament is asked to guarantee the involvement of Dutch industry in the procurement and construction of equipment.