Minister quizzed on anti-pollution ship farce

Sometimes what appears to be a money-saver ends up being a white elephant

Two ships intended to be used by the Miljøstyrelsen environment authority to combat marine pollution have been lying idle in Svendborg Harbour for five years.

Called before a parliamentary committee by Socialdemokratiet’s Bjarne Laustsen, the environment and food minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, was forced to admit that “when I see how the matter has proceeded, I can only hold my hands up to my head in frustration”.

An expensive refit
The ships, bought by the authority in 2015 for around 17 million kroner, were originally built as supply vessels to transport personnel to and from wind turbine installations at sea.

At the time, it was thought they could be refitted for their new task for around 8 million kroner, but that figure soon went through the roof when the only shipyard bidding for the contract asked for 38 million kroner. The Food and Environment Ministry is now working with a revised figure of around 24 million kroner – still three times that of the original estimate.

With what might be thought to be a considerable understatement, Elleman-Jensen said: “It has proved to be rather more expensive than expected. There has not exactly been optimal advice given during the process, and the advice taken has led to us being in a really unpleasant situation today.”

A sick joke
Lausten was not amused. “It’s completely ridiculous that we end up with two completely useless ships in Svendborg when we could have had two totally new ships for half the price,” he told TV2 Nyheder.

“Now they will have to compromise on a whole lot of things. It is almost as if Miljøstyrelsen has done what it could to annoy the Danish shipyard industry.”

According to Miljøstyrelsen the ships should be refitted next spring and be ready to sail after the summer holidays in 2020.