The Dutch Cabinet intends to buy four submarines from French Naval Group. The Cabinet will officially decide this in the Council of Ministers on Friday, sources told RTL Nieuws’ political editorial team. The debate on Wednesday evening was heated, but provided few new insights.

In addition to Naval Group, which has partnered with Royal IHC in its bid, a consortium of Saab and Damen as well as German Thyssenkrupp were also in the race for the order, which is said to be worth between EUR 4 and 6 billion.

Also read: Damen may miss out on Dutch submarine order

Rumours spark criticism

At the end of February, rumours already surfaced that the contract for new Dutch submarines was likely to go to French Naval Group. Sources have now told Dutch news broadcaster RTL Nieuws that the Cabinet has indeed decided today to give the contract to the French.

The rumours had already sparked a bout of criticism. It is feared that Naval Group building the submarines would most likely mean less involvement for the Dutch maritime industry. Tomorrow, 13 March, two days before the formal announcement of the contract award is expected, a debate will take place, initiated by Member of Parliament (MP) Chris Stoffer.

MPs, local authorities and industry parties would much rather see the contract end up with Saab and Damen, as this would guarantee more involvement from the Dutch maritime manufacturing industry and would strengthen the Dutch knowledge base. To this effect, Stoffer’s political party SGP launched a billboard campaign yesterday and just this morning, almost all political groups from the Provincial Council offered a letter to the King’s Commissioner Han Polman. In that letter, they advocate awarding the decision on building new submarines to Swedish-Dutch bidders Saab-Damen.

According to insiders quoted by RTL Nieuws, a good portion of the order for Naval will end up in the Netherlands after all. Some involved mention a percentage of 40 per cent. Naval Group is said to have good ties with several Dutch maritime suppliers such as Royal IHC, Van Halteren Defence and Optics-11 which specialises in sonar.

Also read: Dutch political party launches campaign ahead of submarine debate

‘Last word not yet been said’

It now seems unlikely the debate scheduled for Wednesday evening, 13 March, will still change something about the outcome, but we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Stoffer responds to the news on X (formerly Twitter) by saying: ‘Our outgoing cabinet wants to sell out Dutch interests to the French. But Parliament can still put a stop to this on Wednesday night. And even after that, the last word on this has not yet been said!’

UPDATE 14 March:

Heated debate, but mostly a re-hash of what’s been said before

Last night, the Minister of Economic Affairs Micky Adriaansens and State Secretary of Defence Christophe van der Maat faced several Members of Parliament (MPs) led by MP Chris Stoffer to answer questions about the upcoming submarine order.

As expected, the Minister and State Secretary could not go into the contract award or the particulars in the shipyards’ bid ahead of the expected contract award this Friday. However, the State Secretary stressed that a lobby will not have had any effect on the eventual contract award.

When it comes to the Dutch maritime industry playing a significant role in the building of the new submarines, the Minister added: ‘I can assure you, though, that an industrial cooperation agreement will only be signed with the yard that will supply the submarines if it leads to a strengthening of the Dutch defence industry. And so the winning yard will certainly give a solid boost to the Dutch maritime manufacturing industry.’

In addition, the Minister says that the bids include details on with which Dutch companies the different yards will cooperate and for which equipment, activities or services.

However, with the award not yet formally announced, the Minister could not say how big the Dutch role in the order will in fact be. Moreover, both Adriaansens and Van der Maat warned against reviewing the contract award again as the process has already taken several years and any more delays will also mean a delay in the acquisition of the submarines by ‘at least nine to twelve months’, according to the State Secretary, resulting in a ‘capability gap’.

Picture: A Walrus class submarine (by the Ministry of Defence).

Also read: Dutch Parliament to debate submarine replacement contract