Type 707 Fleet Auxiliary Betriebsstofftransporter
The current Type 704 fuel suppliers will reach the end of their useful life in the years 2023 to 2024. The single-hull tankers RHÖN and SPESSART as workhorses of the German Navy are considered technically outdated and fragile. Since their single-hull technology has long ceased to comply with international environmental protection regulations, some of the NATO units are not allowed to navigate individual territorial waters and no longer call at ports. In addition, there have been increasing failures of the old machines in recent years, Maintaining the two units beyond that would pose great challenges for the Bundeswehr. The supply of floating units with operating materials at sea, also in a multinational environment, will in future be ensured in the Navy via the successor class 707.
Since 2009 the ministry has tried in vain to procure new tankers. In 2020 the ministry asked two German shipyards to submit an offer for new tankers, which should be significantly larger and more powerful than the previous, converted civilian tankers. From the point of view of the Ministry of Defense, the future fuel tankers for the navy belong to the class of warships, the construction of which, contrary to EU law, can also be put out to tender nationally.
On 17 July 2019, the Bundeswehr Inspector General decided to proceed with the procurement of new Betriebsstofftransporter [fuel transporters] for the Navy. The two new units are to generally match the specificatons of the existing trio of Type 702 Berlin class auxiliaries.
They will be significantly more efficient than the previous ones. Commander in Chief of the Navy, Vice-Admiral Hans-Joachim Stricker, had already asked in 2006 the budget planner of the Ministry of Defense for the purchase of two new tankers. The Inspector General has now opted for a supply ship, which has operational-logistical skills more than the current tankers of the Rhön class. These two 704 ships were built in the 1970s and have a cargo capacity of around 11,500 cubic meters. The new fleet tankers, on the other hand, should be able to deliver 15,000 cubic meters of fuel.
In addition to the larger loading capacity for operating materials, the proposed proposal offers further advantages. Including, for example, a higher speed to better keep up with the pace of about frigates can. The new tankers should be over 20 knots fast compared to the 16 knots of "Rhön" and "Spessart". The two double hull tankers of the designated type 707 are to be available to the fleet beyond the 2050s.
Of course, these and other features, such as the larger payload, make the new ships bigger: they will be around 170 meters long, with a predicted displacement of more than 20,000 tons. However, they remain at the same draft as their predecessors: 8 meters. This allows their mooring in the naval base Wilhelmshaven, without the port would have to be deepened for larger ships. The newly constructed new building ensures that Germany can meet specific obligations to NATO in naval logistics: the provision of a total of five "Logistics Ships Small" from 2024 - namely the three Einsatzgruppe providers and the two fleet tankers of the German Navy.
From January 2019, the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw - Bundesamt für Ausrüstung, Informationstechnik und Nutzung der Bundeswehr) will install a fixed project group that will organize the procurement process in the coming years. What are the key parameters that the German Armed Forces will demand in the bid for industry offers is already known.
In addition to the larger delivery, further advantages are pursued. With a speed of more than 20 knots, the Type 707 vessels can better keep pace with the ships to be refueled (e.g. frigates). Before the decision of the Inspector General, the purchase of two civil series tankers was also considered as a faster alternative. However, the required speed of 20 knots became a problem, as marine spokesman poll confirmed. Civil oil tankers are usually between 14 and 16 knots fast.
Moreover, the two fleet oilers are to be built in accordance with the latest international standards, i.e. as double-hull vessels. The draft was limited to eight meters but increasing the length to 170 meters and the width to 24 meters, thus allowing them to use the same ports. Type 707 will offer 30 additional places for embarkation possibilities. Container storage spaces will be extended to 20 (instead of 2). In spite of automatization which would facilitate reducing manpower, the (civilian) crew will have to remain at 42 to cope with increased range of tasks (i.e. multiple station replenishment at sea).
The existing two 704-type oilers (RHÖN class) were built in the 1970s as commercial tankers and had been transferred into Navy Grey 42 years ago. As single-hull tanker, they do no longer comply with the licensing regulations and may only be used with derogations. Since 1 January 2015, worldwide transport of oil in single-hull tankers over sea is prohibited. Many ports have also imposed prohibitions on entry. In addition, technical problems are persisting, so they were not available for some periods. They are to be kept in operation until 2024.
The new vessels are to be stationed from 2024 in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. The admiral had pointed in the past several times on the poor condition of its almost 50-year-old tanker. The order volume for the new buildings should be in the mid three-digit million range. After the project phase, there was a tender for the German shipyards from 2021/22. The order offers the German shipyards a real future perspective. After the outbreak of the shipping crisis in 2008, no major tankers were laid on Kiel at German shipyards. "Since surface shipbuilding is now also a key national technology, I assume that these ships will be built in Germany," says Ingo Gädechens , CDU member of parliament and member of the defense committee. With such an order from the Bundeswehr, German shipyards could also expand their know-how in tanker construction.
It was suggested that "market-available, inexpensive replacement purchases" were made with civilian tankers, which could then be adapted militarily. The Bundeswehr rejected the time and money-saving variant recommended by the auditors, namely to use commercially available tankers and convert them for military purposes, as well as a Europe-wide tendering process. Because it is not about warships, a European tender is the best way "to receive inexpensive and high-quality offers".
The ministry, however, started an award procedure in June 2020. According to information from Business Insider, the award of the contract for the two ships was carried out in an unusual way: the Ministry of Defense awarded the contract without a Europe-wide invitation to tender against the concerns of the Bundeswehr procurement office in Koblenz. The head of the ministry around Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) justified this with the fact that the procurement of the tankers falls under a resolution of the federal government of February 12, 2020. According to this, marine shipbuilding is a key German technology, which means that the federal government can do without Europe-wide tenders and make direct decisions. "The project is the first procurement measure for the Navy since surface shipbuilding was classified as a key defense industry technology and it is in the national interest to maintain this technology in Germany",
The legal department of the procurement office warned the ministry urgently of the considerable legal risks involved in this line of argument. Because according to the legal experts in Koblenz, the tankers would not be classic warships - they would not be a key technology either. In this way, losing companies could possibly successfully sue the award process.
As the Ministry of Defense confirmed, at the beginning of October 2020 a shipyard actually filed a complaint against the ministry's actions with an official reprimand and a so-called review request. The shipyard is the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (FSG), which was taken over by the controversial investor Lars Windhorst at the beginning of September. The company had previously filed for insolvency in April, but was initially able to keep afloat with a mass loan of five million euros from the Windhorst company Tennor. As a result of the Corona crisis, however, there were still no orders and the company filed for bankruptcy again. Windhorst then took over the company completely.
The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court ruled that the complaint by Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft against this tender has suspensive effect - until a final court decision on the procedure. (Decision of the Public Procurement Senate OLG Düsseldorf dated December 2, 2020, Az.VK 2-87 / 20). This means that the Ministry or the Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Use of the Bundeswehr (BAAINBw) cannot award the contract for the time being. By December 2020 the Ministry of Defense was contemplating stopping the procurement project for the Bundeswehr because the foreseeable costs far exceed the budgeted funds: The award procedure for new tankers for the German Navy may be restarted because, according to the calculations of the shipyards involved, the requirements of the Navy cost almost twice as much as intended.
|Type 704 (Rhön class)||Type 707|
|length||130 meters||170 meters|
|beam||19 meters||24 meters|
|draft||8 meters||8 meters|
|speed||16 knots||20 knots|
|displacement||14,200 tons||> 20,000 tons|
|Fuel dispensing capacity||11,500 tons||15,000 tons|
|container Station||2 TEU||20 TEU|
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