Gorch Fock saga: Overhaul to continue as shipyard management is laid off

German Navy’s sail training ship Gorch Fock is likely to return to sea despite a massive increase in repair costs and the fact that it has spent over three years in the docks at Elsflether Werft.

The cost overruns led to an investigation which resulted in the shipyard’s management being laid off. The management board and supervisory board were let go on Wednesday due to considerable “breaches of duty,” German media reports said.

The defense ministry said in December last year that it was investigating possible corruption at the yard.

Defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this week that the Gorch Fock would continue with repairs. The ship is to be relaunched by April this year with a return to cadet training duties scheduled for 2020. The defense minister said the repair costs would not exceed the 135 million euro price estimate.

Reparations that were to make sure Gorch Fock stays in service into the 2040s started in January 2016 and were expected to be completed in 17 weeks, at a cost of 10 million euros.

However, previously undetected damages caused delays in the schedule and increases in spending. Work stopped altogether in October 2016 with a total of 35 million euros of contracts handed out for reparations.

Germany had to decide whether to decommission the ship at that moment and search for a replacement or a ship leased from a partner navy, or continue with reparations.

In an announcement on January 26, 2017, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said the ministry would foot the bill for Gorch Fock repairs adding that the decision was influenced by the ship’s historic value. The minister also noted that this decision would give the country more time to plan for the ship’s successor.

Subsequent increases brought the repair costs first to 75 million and later to the final 135 million euros.


Photo: German Navy file photo of Gorch Fock under full sail in 2015