Continuing Controversies: Disputes with Navantia Over Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Frigates
“Norway’s New Nansen Class Frigates: Capabilities and Controversies” by DID reader Endre Lunde covered Norway’s new Fridtjof Nansen Class multi-mission AEGIS frigates, which are being built by Navantia of Spain.
Now DID’s Spanish correspondent Pedro Lucio informs us that according to Spanish newspapers, the controversies are intensifying. Indeed, Norway’s NDLO (Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation) is now making noises about rescinding the contract. DID’s respective correspondents give us the view from both sides, as described in the Spanish press and in Norway:
The Spanish View
Contributor: Pedro Lucio
Rust problems: This has apparently become an issue within a month of delivering F-310, the KNM Fridtjof Nansen. Navantia reportedly claims that the problem is the kind of paint Norway chose, which they say is inferior to the type used on Spain’s F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigates. Spain’s frigates have not had these kinds of problems with rust.
Increasing Costs: Navantia and Norway are locked in a dispute over a EUR 19 million set of charges due to the large number of changes requested by Norway. Some reports claim that many of the changes were requested after Norwegian officers visited one of Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigates.
Quality Control: Pedro Lucio notes that all the materials uses on Norway’s destroyers are supervised and reviewed by both Navantias engineers and Norway’s engineers and officers, who also set the specifications.
Discussions to resolve these issues are continuing with Navantia, and at this point some form of mutually-agreed resolution remains the most likely outcome.
The Norwegian View
Contributor: Endre Lunde
In Norway, as described in my article, the choice of Navantia, then Izar Bazan as the preferred builder was a controversial one. As mentioned, they won in competition with among others a Norwegian consortium, plus well renowned Blohm-Voss in Germany. Now that the project is hitting rough times, a lot of people within the maritime industry in Norway are feeling vindicated as their warnings against building vessels with low-cost shipyards in southern Europe are at least seemingly being confirmed.
The Norwegian Navy is downplaying this situation. They claim that problems of this kind within the project are rare, and that the ones that do occur usually are thoroughly noted and dealt with. They see it as a simple dispute over details within the contract that should not have any impact on the overall relationship between the NDLO and Navantia.
But as Pedro Lucio noted, things might not be that simple.
Rust problems: The rust problem has gotten a lot of attention within Norway. While Navantia apparently blames Norway, Norway blames Navantia. The handover of the vessel was delayed, and Norway claims that during the final month of production, the pace of work aboard the Nansen was so high, that several mistakes were made. They refute the story of flawed choice of paint, and simply cite poor quality of work as the cause. They also quote the high pace of work as the reason they didn’t notice these problems before handover; they believe that much of the work was completed so late that a proper inspection wasn’t possible.
Increasing Costs: The cost increase is another issue. What Navantia calls “changes” creating increased costs, Norway calls “irregularities” that Navantia were obligated to fix according to contract.
Norway has had a full team of inspectors at Navantia since construction started, and they have conducted daily inspections in cooperation with the local builders, which has caused several disputes. At one point, Navantia actually denied access to one of the inspectors to the site, as they believed he had acted impolitely towards their employees. Norway however believes that this “impoliteness” was caused by the fact that the inspectors would often come across several of these “irregularities” including everything from welding to paintwork, which they would demand to have corrected. These “fixes,” Norway believes to be covered by the contract, while Navantia sees them as extra work, a.k.a. changes to be paid separately.
Quality Control: After all this, it should not come as a surprise that the NDLO confirms that there are disputes over quality control. They claim however that much of it is related to the question of Norway’s responsibility for the control of work done by sub-contractors. Norway believes that according to the contract, they will only control and approve the final product, and bear no responsibility for the quality of what is delivered by Navantia’s sub-contractors. Navantia however obviously sees this differently, and wants to have the Norwegians involved at every level, something Norway then refuses.
But as mentioned, the Navy downplays the situation. They see these issues as minor problems to be expected with the first of class ship, and believe the situation will be much better with the second vessel, KNM Roald Amundsen. KNM Fridtjof Nansen is also scheduled to return to Navantia three times during the next 24 months for upgrades and adjustments, during which the Navy hopes to have all the existing issues resolved.
There may still be important consequences and fallout from these disputes. Norway planned to buy a support ship to sustain the frigates at sea for extended periods of time. If the relationship with Navantia continues to deteriorate, Norway’s domestic builders might be given another chance at a major project for the Norwegian Navy.
- La Voz de Galicia (Sept 10/2006) – Grupos de Presion de Noruega intentan desacreditar a Navantia
- ABC (Sept 2/06) – Noruega devolvera una fragata de la espanola Navantia porque “se ha oxidado y es una chapuza”