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The decision in favour of Naval Group is just a week old (July 2 – we reported) and it looks as it is already stalled (again). Damen, one of the three competitors, lodged a complaint with the Romanian National Council for Solving Complaints on July 8. And simultaneously opened a lawsuit at the Bucharest Tribunal.

The Dutch yard, which cooperates on site with Damen Shipyards Mangalia (in Mangalia) and Şantierul naval Galaţi (in Galati), bases its claim on irregularities in compliance with the conditions established in the tendering procedure. Damen indicates leaked information, especially in terms of pricing. The main point of the Gorinchem company is that one of the participants in the tender does not have the corvettes built entirely in Romania. On-site assembly does not meet the requirements of the tender.

In addition, Damen points out that apparently pricing was not the only determining criterion (as it was indicated in the presentation of the result). Taking this into account, the company considers that it had presented the best solution for the requirements of the Romanian Navy. Damen’s offer (€1.25 billion) was just above the Naval Group (€1.2 billion).

In fact, the press release on behalf of the French Minister of Defence, published on the Ministry’s website on July 3, suggests that Lorient and Toulon-Ollioules have a substantial stake in the construction program. It also says that construction of the platforms and final assembly will be carried out in technology transfer at Constanta SNC. However, this formulation offers a wide array for interpretation.

It seems we have to prepare for the next round in the struggle over the Romanian Corvette program. Which in itself is unfortunate because the Black Sea country, should have an intact navy with up-to-date capabilities given the growing importance of this area for NATO as response to the tense situation. The modernization program already suffered postponements. Thus, the expected entry-into-service 2022 may not be maintained.

On the other hand, the government has an interest in realizing the modernization of the armed forces. There the risk looming to lose the political consensus to increase military spending from 2017 to 2% of GDP – compared to 1.4% in previous years. In 2018, military spending was only 1.8% of GDP. This was mainly due to late or frozen modernization projects.

Hans Uwe Mergener