The Dutch Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is starting an objection procedure over the provisional contract award for four new submarines to French Naval Group. The third contender for the contract, the Saab-Damen combination, leaves it to Dutch Parliament to review the decision.

The Dutch government wants to replace its four current Walrus-class submarines with four new ones. Three parties entered a bid for the contract: German TKMS, the Swedish-Dutch combination of Saab-Kockums and Damen Shipyards and French Naval Group. On 15 March, the Dutch Secretary of State for Defence, Christophe van der Maat announced Naval as winner.

Even before the official contract award, rumours had already surfaced about Naval winning the multi-billion-euro contract. It led to a storm of criticism fuelled by concerns that Naval would not sufficiently involve the Dutch maritime industry in the project. Involvement of Dutch industry is one of the three pillars for the contract award, but as yet, it is not really clear how much work will indeed end up with Dutch companies.

Also read: Serious doubts over government decision on submarine replacement

Objection procedure

The Ministry of Defence was asked about the objection procedure after Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf revealed that TKMS was going to court over the submarine contract. The spokesperson for the Ministry would not say anything about the exact substance of the objection.

However, according to De Telegraaf, the Germans are angry in particular because the Dutch government initially said it wanted a relatively standardised submarine “off the shelf”, which they based their bid on, but ultimately opted for the custom-built submarines from Naval.

Also read: Dutch submarine contract provisionally awarded to Naval

‘Provisional award a political debate’

The Saab-Damen consortium has taken a different tack. In a statement released on LinkedIn, the two companies say that Parliament has to decide on the contract award instead of a court.

They state: ‘In the preliminary award for the replacement of the Walrus class submarines, the strategic defence cooperation with France mentioned in the D letter seems to be leading. We think this choice should be assessed in Parliament where this political discussion belongs.’

‘After evaluation, it appears that Saab-Damen offered the best boat by far, with by far the most directly submarine-related Dutch industrial participation. However, the final score was disproportionately affected by a very low price, well below the realistic price level for private defence companies,’ Saab and Damen add.

‘This means that it was not the quality of the submarines, the impact on the Dutch economy and the retention of knowledge within the maritime sector that was the deciding factor, but mainly the low price. The assessment process also seems to have been optimised on this. This political choice by the outgoing cabinet cannot be reversed via legal proceedings now.’

Saab and Damen conclude: ‘We trust that the discussion around the provisional award will be held in Parliament in the coming weeks, though. The MPs can then scrutinise all considerations sharply.’

Picture: Artist impression of the new submarine (by Dutch Ministry of Defence).

Also read: Damen on submarine contract award: ‘Foundation of Dutch naval construction swept away’