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The acquisition of two multipurpose offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for the Bulgarian Navy will most likely get delayed, as the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has yet to announce the results of evaluation of bids submitted by companies taking part in the competition.

The Bulgarian MoD was expected to announce the outcome of a multi stage selection process for the delivery of two new multipurpose offshore patrol vessels this summer. However, until now the long awaited results of an international tender haven’t been published, increasing concerns that the acquisition programme, which plays a crucial role in the modernization effort of the Bulgarian Navy, might get delayed.

Three companies decided to make a bid in the Bulgarian tender. These were: Italian Fincantieri with a modified ABU DHABI class corvette, German Lürssen offering a platform based on its OPV 80/85/90 series of vessels and the local MTG Dolphin which proposed the latest version of its K-90 vessel.

An interdepartmental committee, composed of experts from the Navy’s Command, MoD as well as the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs conducted evaluation of submitted bids. The results of this process are said to have already been presented to the Bulgarian council of ministers.

The local government will have to now make final recommendations to the MoD on whether it accepts the results of committee’s works or not. However, it seems unlikely, that particular ministers could oppose the verdict of the month long evaluation process.

Currently, it is expected that the Bulgarian MoD will initiate negotiations with the preferred bidder shortly after the summer break. During the next few months both sides should reach agreement on a number of matters, such as the final price and deadline for the OPV project, laying grounds for the future cooperation.

If contract negotiations continue without any further delay, the final agreement could be reached by the end of 2019, and finalization of the transaction could commence as early as next year.

The Bulgarian MoD estimates that the first of the OPV vessels could be delivered to the Navy by the end of 2023. The second might follow a year after. The project’s budget is set at 820 million Lev (about €419 million).

Procurement of new OPVs should significantly enhance operational capabilities of the Bulgarian Navy, and allow it to secure country’s strategic interests in the Black Sea region as well meet its commitments to the international community and NATO partners.

Michal Jarocki