It’s official: Norway’s badly damaged frigate KNM Helge Ingstad won’t be repaired. The defense ministry has finally determined that it will be better to simply scrap the expensive vessel that collided with a tanker last autumn and then sank.
Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen announced that the government now officially agrees that it’s “more appropriate” to scrap the Helge Ingstad instead of reparing the badly damaged vessel. A recent condition assessment showed that it will cost as much as NOK 14 billion to repair the vessel, versus an estimated NOK 1 billion less to build a new frigate.
That’s still more than twice the Helge Ingstad’s original pricetag. Even though Norway is a wealthy nation, debate continues over how any newbuilding will be financed. The government self-insures its assets, so the cost of building a new frigate will likely have to be financed through the annual state budget at the expense of other projects. A tentative government proposal to dip into Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund to pay for a new frigate was politically scrapped by opposition Members of Parliament earlier this year.
Bakke-Jensen noted in his formal decision on the fate of the frigate that there was also “a lot of uncertainty” tied to a repair program. The extent of damage was so great that repairs were expected to take more than five years, about the same as the time needed to build a new frigate. A newbuilding also involves less technical and economic risk.
Scrapping alone will likely cost as much as NOK 100 million on top of huge salvage costs, even after accounting for the sales value of metal and other reusable material. The Helge Ingstad’s parts are valued at between NOK 100 million and NOK 400 million depending on necessary inspections and repairs.
Bakke-Jensen noted that the collision, sinking and salvage of the frigate “has considerable consequences for the defense of Norway,” with its long coastline and vast areas at sea. It’s also been an extremely expensive and embarrassing mishap for the Norwegian Navy, with blame yet to be officially placed but expected to be spread among all involved. The frigate’s crew on duty when the collision occurred in the dark, early morning hours of November 8 has already admitted to mistaking the tanker for the oil terminal that the tanker was leaving, and then failing to swerve in time.
The defense minister stressed that the frigate’s lost defense capacity “must be re-established.” He said he will now seek professional military advice on how the Helge Ingstad’s “operative capacity can best be replaced.” Steps have already been taken to double crew capacity on Norway’s remaining frigates plus the new vessel KNM Maud, to keep them all in more active duty.