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Germany: Auditors slam pricey naval ship repairs

January 14, 2019

An "overpriced" shipyard overhaul of Germany's naval training vessel the Gorch Fock has been slammed by federal auditors. They're reportedly asking why Berlin never opted to build a brand new ship.

Deutschland Gorch Fock im Dock der Bredo Werft in Bremerhaven
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Jaspersen

"Severe" mismanagement within the German navy and Defense Ministry led to massive cost overruns in restoration work on a naval training ship, according to a confidential report seen by Der Spiegel magazine.

Repair estimates on the Gorch Fock were originally priced at under  €10 million ($11.5 million), but skyrocketed to €135 million last year, the 39-page report from the National Audit Office found.

The agency blamed military officers for inadequately examining the sailing ship's deficiencies, ignoring information vital for the repair work and failing to fully inform Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen.

Work on the ship's hull and renewal of its upper and middle deck began in 2015 without an economic feasibility study, and without considering the case for constructing a new ship, auditors said.

A Defense Ministry spokesperson said the ministry would submit a formal reply to the Federal Audit Office's accusations by April.

Romania's three master Mircea with a tug in Wilhelmshafen
Romania's Mircea has temporarily replaced the Gorch Fock.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Wagner

Expensive storage

Before it was taken to Bremerhaven for repairs in 2015, authorities reportedly believed it would take some four months to complete the restoration.

More than three years later, however, the ship is still completely disassembled. Keeping the ship in dry dock costs the German taxpayers some €10,000 per day, according to Der Spiegel.

Meanwhile, the German navy has been forced to reassign its officer cadets to Mircea, a Romanian three master barque, for naval training.

The Gorch Fock is a modified replica of an older vessel and was built for West Germany's navy in 1958. It was built after the loss of a larger commercial barque named the Pamir, which  capsized in an Atlantic hurricane off the Azores in 1957.

ipj, dj/amp (dpa, AFP)

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