Den Helder is the new combat support ship (CSS) being built by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding to support multiple naval missions of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN). The CSS will be the first RNLN ship to be named after the city which is home to the Netherlands’ main naval base.
Roles and capabilities
With the CSS, the maritime supply capacity of the Royal Netherlands Navy will be restored. The ship will operate alongside the Joint Support Ship HNLMS Karel Doorman. The new ship can be used worldwide and can operate under high threat, protected by frigates. In addition, she can be used in the fight against drug trafficking, controlling refugee flows and providing emergency aid. The almost 200-meter-long ship will have a 75-person crew and can also take an additional 75 people on board. There is room for several helicopters and around twenty containers.
After the so-called D-letter announcing the procurement decision for the Combat Support Ship was submitted to the Dutch Parliament in December 2019, the construction contract was signed with Damen on February 19th, 2020. Engineering of the vessel takes place mostly in the Netherlands and a large number of components will be delivered by Dutch suppliers.
The CSS is built by Damen in Romania, after which the ship’s final components and the combat management system will be installed in Den Helder. On December 2nd, 2020, first steel was cut, marking an important milestone, the first tangible part of the construction of the CSS. The next milestone will be in May 2021, when the keel-laying ceremony will take place. Completion is scheduled for the second quarter of 2024. A year later, in the second quarter of 2025, the Combat Support Ship must be operable.
While at sea, naval vessels are dependent on regular replenishment. The own storage capacity of a combat ship is limited. One of the most direct ways that auxiliaries support the fleet is by providing underway replenishment. This allows the fleet to remain on station, with the replenishment vessels bringing up fuel, ammunition, food, and supplies from shore to the fleet wherever it is operating. Auxiliaries are extremely important for navies, as without them, the primary fleet vessels cannot be effective.
Damen, as main contractor, will supervise the project together with the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO). Damen will not do this alone; more than a hundred companies from the Dutch maritime sector are expected to be involved in this. This means that a large part of the sector will be deployed to participate in this innovative new ship. From March to December 2020, more than forty contracts were awarded to Dutch maritime suppliers for the CSS, with a cumulative contract value approaching 90 million euro.