German navy spent £120m repairing sailing ship while troops face shortages
July 13, 2020
The German navy has come under fire for spending millions on repairing a historic tall ship at a time when frontline units are facing serious equipment shortages.
A year after it emerged that none of Germany’s six submarines were sea worthy because of maintenance issues, questions are being asked over why the defence ministry spent €135m (£120m) attempting to repair a sailing ship.
A report by German government auditors leaked to Spiegel magazine at the weekend found the defence ministry and the armed forces had been guilty of “serious mismanagement”.
The Gorch Fock is a three-masted barque built in 1958. Officially Germany considers it a “training ship” and it is used to accustom recruits to life at sea, but in effect it is a naval talisman.
The ship has been undergoing repair for damage to the hull since November 2015. The intital budget was €9.6m (£8.5m) and the repairs were supposed to take 17 weeks. More than three years later, the ship is still disassembled and there is serious doubt whether it will ever sail again.
The leaked auditors’ report accuses the defence ministry of “a lack of planning” and “failure adequately to prepare for the repair of the ship”.
“Before the start of the work, it was not clear whether the repair of the Gorch Fock was still financially viable,” it says.
The scandal comes after Angela Merkel’s government pledged to raise its defence spending to €60bn (£53bn) by 2024, following pressure from the US. But it will still fall far short of the Nato target of 1.5 per cent of GDP.
It also comes almost a year after a German parliamentary watchdog warned that equipment shortages had become so severe that Germany could not meet its Nato obligations.
Germany’s submarines are believed to be sea worthy once more. But Hans-Peter Bartels, the parlimentary commissioner for the armed forces, warned earlier this month that Germany is “badly prepared” as it took over command of a Nato rapid response force.
Soldiers had been forced to borrow equipment from other units in order to meet their duties, Dr Bartels said.