Final Voyage of the ORP “Sęp” Kobben-class Submarine

Image Credit: M. Dura
Image Credit: M. Dura

One of the two remaining Kobbens, ORP “Sęp”, was towed from the Polish Navy’s base in Gdynia to the Gdanska Stocznia Remontowa im. J. Piłsudskiego S.A. shipyard in Gdansk, where the batteries are going to be extracted from that vessel. After the process comes to completion, the vessel would still belong to the Polish Navy, but it would no longer be a submarine.

The process aimed at decommissioning the two last remaining Kobben-class submarines has been initiated on 2nd March 2021. On that day, the ORP “Sęp” was towed by Nosorożec G-01 and Nosorożec G-02 pushers from Gdynia to Gdansk. The Gdansk-based Stocznia Remontowa im. J. Piłsudskiego S.A. shipyard would be dealing with extracting the SUNLIGHT 2X38ST10A batteries (138 double cells each) from ORP “Sęp”, and then, from ORP “Bielik”. The work would be performed within the framework of an agreement signed by and between the shipyard and the Command of the Gdynia base of the Polish Navy, with a value of 999,990 zlotys.

The tendering procedure concerning the aforesaid work involved another 3 entities, with one bid being rejected (Balt Yard Sp. z o.o). The remaining two proposed a higher price (PGZ Stocznia Wojenna Sp. z o.o. based in Gdynia, and NET MARINE – Marine Power Service Spółka z o. o. based in Szczecin).

The operation that is going to be carried out at the Gdansk-based shipyard is going to be irreversible. Battery monitoring, and cooling systems, connections, halon-based fire extinguishing system (with gas tanks and the gas itself), water systems being redundant for side valves, would all be removed. The vessel would receive ballast, to be placed in battery chambers 1-3, replacing the extracted components.

The above would result in a complete and irreversible decommissioning of the Kobben-class submarines, that would no longer be viewed as submarines. The final decommissioning would most probably take place in mid-2021. This is what the shipyard’s work schedule assumes, as work is to be completed, concerning both vessels (first - ORP “Sęp”, then ORP “Bielik”), until 7th May 2021. Then the vessels would become a burden for the Navy - understandably, the Navy will be trying to get rid of them ASAP.

The decommissioned Kobben vessels that have remained in service for 55 years now would be handed off to the Polish Military Property Agency. The boats have already been quoted, reportedly: PLN 750 thousand apiece. They can be sent to a scrapyard. It seems to be far more sensible to use the old submarines as a tourist attraction, by showcasing them in some of the Polish coastal cities. Gdynia has been the first city to use the Kobben-class submarine in that role - this refers to the ORP “Sokół” vessel. Szczecin and Kołobrzeg also remain ready to host these subs.

As all of the Polish Koben-class submarines have been decommissioned, the Polish Navy currently operates a single submarine - the ORP “Orzeł” (Project 877) vessel. It is a Soviet-made Kilo-class submarine that needs to be imminently replaced. The trouble is that the “Orka” programme aimed at introducing the “Orzeł” replacement has been suspended. Meanwhile, the Swedish gap-filler proposal has turned out to be too expensive. It remains unknown, as to what solution would be adopted to rectify these circumstances.