Once-proud frigate set to be scrapped

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It will cost more to repair the ill-fated frigate KNM Helge Ingstad than to build a new one, Norwegian defense officials have confirmed. Both the chief of Norway’s armed forces and the defense minister are now resigned to scrapping the frigate after it collided with an oil tanker last November and then sank.

The refloated frigate KNM Helge Ingstad is so badly damaged that repairs will cost more than building a new vessel. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Emil Wenaas Larsen

Attempts to salvage the frigate have already cost a whopping NOK 726 million (USD 84 million), forcing the government to boost the defense budget mid-year by NOK 486.3 million and come up with at least another NOK 166 million from elsewhere within the defense budget.

The bottom line is that experts who’ve been examining the wreckage of the Helge Ingstad estimate that it will cost between NOK 12 billion-14 billion to repair the already rusting frigate. After several months of lying underwater not far from the scene of the collision at Øygården, the frigate was raised and later refloated at the Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.

Not only will the frigate need massive repairs to its hull, its technical equipment would all have to be replaced. Building a new frigate from scratch will also be more than twice as expensive as Helge Ingstad was, but less than repair costs, at an estimated NOK 11 billion-13 billion.

Surprised
“I think everyone realized that repairing the frigate would cost a lot,” said Defense Chief Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, himself an admiral in the Norwegian Navy, “but it surprised me that it will cost more than acquiring a similar new frigate.”

He said at a press conference in Oslo Wednesday that given the numbers presented, “it seems clear to me that the only sensible solution will be to replace the capacity we lost with the frigate with something new.”

It’s not certain that will be a frigate, with some defense officials and commentators arguing that the money would be better spent on a new submarine or other types of naval vessels specializing in surveillance.

‘Total wreck’
“The loss of a frigate is serious for a coastal nation like Norway,” Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said upon formally receiving the condition report on the frigate. He said it’s most important to replace the frigate’s operative ability capacity.

Inspectors and damage assessment experts have said it is possible to repair Helge Ingstad, but they’ve deemed the vessel a total wreck that will demand costly work likely to take five years. It will also take an estimated five years to build a new frigate, but for a billion or two less kroner.

Scrapping the frigate will also cost as much as NOK 100 milion even after deducting the sales value of the vessel metal and other material that could be recycled and used again.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund