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Germany: Gorch Fock training ship returns to service

September 30, 2021

A shipyard is handing back the Gorch Fock sailing vessel to the German navy after almost six years of refitting. The ship was previously at the center of several controversies.

Gorch Fock on a trial voyage following repairs
The Gorch Fock has been extensively refitted and is to return to training serviceImage: Sina Schuldt/dpa/picture-alliance

The Gorch Fock, a three-masted sailing ship used by the German navy for training cadets, is being handed over to naval officials in the northern city of Wilhelmshaven on Thursday after almost six years of repairs.

The refitting of the ship caused some controversy after the costs rose from the original estimate of €10 million ($11.6 million) to €135 million.

Delays and financial irregularities at the first shipyard commissioned with the repairs added to the furor, which saw the Defense Ministry come under considerable fire.

The first shipyard to be charged with the refitting work, Elsflether in Bremerhaven, went bankrupt in February 2019. The work was completed over the past two years by the Lürssen shipyard in the northern port city of Bremen.

The repairs included the almost complete replacement of the hull plating, the renewal of decks, and the refurbishment of the engine.

 Albatross figurehead on the Gorch Fock
The ship's albatross figurehead was designed by a former World War II U-boat commander Image: picture-alliance/imageBROKER/M. Dietrich

The Gorch Fock's 60 years of service

The Gorch Fock, which entered service as a training ship in 1959, is named in honor of the German author Johann Kinau, who wrote under the nom de plume of "Gorch Fock." Kinau was killed in the World War I battle of Jutland/Skagerrak in 1916.

The ship has been at the center of other controversies in the past, notably in 2010 when a 25-year-old officer candidate fell to her death from the rigging in the Brazilian port of Salvador da Bahia. That incident caused a rebellion among trainees that eventually led to the dismissal of the ship's captain.

At least five other sailors have lost their lives in accidents on the ship.

The return of the ship to service will be officially celebrated on Monday in its home port of Kiel. After that, the ship's main crew will train in the Baltic Sea in October before the first cadets are taken on again in January in the Canary Islands.

tj/rt (AFP, dpa)