In order for the navy to be able to salvage wrecked ships on the high seas in the future, it urgently needed reinforcements. Just six months later, the ocean-going tug “Rügen” is in the port of Kiel. In order to make this possible, the procurers of the Bundeswehr took an unusual path.

The sea tugs “Wangerooge”, “Spiekeroog” and “Fehmarn” were in the service of the Navy for over 50 years before they had to be retired at the end of last year due to age. This posed a challenge for the Navy: ocean-going tugboats are urgently needed by the fleet. However, commissioning, building and putting into service a new ship usually takes many years. Nevertheless, the Bundeswehr managed to welcome a new ocean-going tug to the port of Kiel just six months later. Now he has officially entered service.

The tractor “Rügen” is larger and more powerful than its predecessors. The ship can tow up to 21,000 tons under full load in the high seas and has already proven this. Under the name “Rota Endurance” the ship has already proven itself for 20 years in the service of a civilian company at sea. In order to speed up procurement, the Bundeswehr refrained from buying a new one and instead looked around the market for used ships. Through a trader, the forces and the ship came together. This is a novelty in the history of the Bundeswehr’s arms procurement.

The fact that in the case of the Procurement It is no coincidence that new paths are being broken. It is politically intended. Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022 made it clear that operational forces are more important for the security of Germany and its allies than they have been for a long time. However, although with the €100 billion special fund a lot of money has been made available, new weapons and vehicles are not immediately in the yard with the troops.

“The top priority for all of us in the future will be the time factor. Where we have put unnecessary shackles on ourselves, we will now throw them off.”

The procurement of the ocean-going tug “Rügen” shows how it can be done. It was one of eleven pilot projects with which the Bundeswehr wanted to speed up the procurement of equipment. For this purpose, a task force has been set up in the Ministry of Defence to optimise procurement, which is also allowed to take unusual paths.

“A lot is possible when everyone pulls together and you take an unconventional approach,” says Brigadier General Christian Leitges, head of the task force. “The pilot projects are spread all over the Bundeswehr, so you can feel the acceleration in many places. But the ocean-going tug is something very special – a real driving force,” Leitges adds with a wink.

In the case of the ocean-going tug “Rügen”, the unusual paths were also evident in the processing of the purchase. “We approached the market proactively, did not wait for the usual German standard forms, but simply completed the purchase with the original English contracts,” says Leitges. They have adapted to the market in order to be able to supply the troops more quickly with what they need. This was the only way to hand over the ship to the Navy in record time.

Only four weeks after arrival, the new ocean-going tug has now been put into service. In the meantime, the scaffolding of military communication systems was being prepared.

However, the work on the “Rügen” has not yet been completed, as Vice Admiral Frank Lenski emphasizes at the commissioning of the ship at the naval base in Kiel. Now that it has been possible to procure the salvage tug in an insanely short time, he expects speed and pragmatism in the outstanding work on the ship, according to the commander of the fleet.

In the foreseeable future, the “Rügen” will get a sister ship, which will also be bought second-hand. The project has shown that it is worthwhile to break with processes that were previously considered irrevocable, according to task force leader Leitges – even if it sometimes requires a little courage.