Gorch Fock reprieved as repair costs soar

Tom Todd
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Repairs and maintenance being carried out on the veteran German Navy sail training ship 'Gorch Fock II' will continue and last into 2018 despite soaring costs now being put at about €75 million.

German Navy spokesman, Frigate Captain Carsten Poll, told Maritime Journal the work on the veteran, steel-hulled, three-masted barque included “the renewal of the biggest part of the external hull as well as the masts and the upper deck”.

He said the ship was docked at BREDO Dockgesellschaft in Bremerhaven but that the work was being carried out by the Elsflether Werft. Located some 50 kms upstream on the Weser, that yard has regularly serviced Gorch Fock for the Navy but because it has no dry docks of its own, it leases space at BREDO.

Poll said The work has in fact been underway since late 2015 - in both Elsfleth and Bremerhaven. When it started, costs were estimated at €10 million but they have rocketed since then as new work has been discovered. Poll confirmed that the current estimate for the overhaul stood at about €75 million.

He told this correspondent the aim was to have the Gorch Fock ready to resume service as a training platform for naval officer cadets in 2018, when the ship will be 60 years old. Poll added that it was then planned to keep the veteran in service until early 2030. “This will give the Navy sufficient time to plan a new sail training ship”, he said, a reference to the time needed to build a sophisticated and safe sailship replacement .

There had been fears that Berlin might baulk at the ever-increasing cost of repairing the existing ship and scrap it. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said however Gorch Fock was much more than just a sailing ship. “She is an ambassador for Germany on the oceans of the world”, von Leyen declared.

Gorch Fock II was completed by the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg in 1958. It is 81.2m long without the bowsprit, 12m wide and draws 5.25m. It carries 2,037m2 of sail and has a six-cylinder auxiliary Deutz MWM Diesel of 1,220kW. The original Gorch Fock, built in 1933, is now berthed in Stralsund as a museum ship.

A decision on a ship to replace Gorch Fock II during its overhaul was expected late March. Reports focus on the Romanian barque Mircea, a sister ship of the original Gorch Fock and built in1938, also at Blohm + Voss. Captain Poll said the plan was not to charter the ship but to place 110 German officer cadets on it for training. It would still sail under the Romanian flag with a Romanian crew, he told this correspondent.

Gorch Fock: out of action until 2018