Portugal has reneged on its much-publicised €80 million purchase of a 20-year-old French multipurpose logistical ship.
Only a few months ago, the 162 metre Siroco was described as “one of the most important for increasing significantly the ability of Portugal to operate anywhere in the world”.
With a range of 6000 miles, it had the ability to embark up to 650 marines, we were told.
The deal was confirmed in April as French PM Manuel Valls arrived on national soil to appeal for more “investment in France”.
What was curious at the time was that until the Ministry of Defence announcement of the purchase, the head of Portugal’s fleet Admiral Macieira Fragoso had told Expresso that it would be “impossible” – not due to any shortcomings or problems of the ship, but because Portugal simply did not have the money.
Expresso revealed the running costs of the Siroco – €22,000 for every day of navigation – were compounded by the fact that it would require a crew of between 100 and 230.
But, following Macieira Fragoso’s remarks, a parliamentary meeting “behind closed doors” decided that Portugal did indeed have the money for a vessel that would be invaluable to Portugal’s Navy.
Now, four months later, comes the news that Portugal has changed its mind because the ship poses “operational limitations” that could cause “significant damage” if used by heavy EH101 helicopters.
As all news sources covering the story explain, this is the official version for Portugal ducking out of the deal.
The truth may well lie in the comments of Admiral Fragoso.
Rádio Renascença reports this morning that the defence ministry has been in negotiations with the French since June in a bid to reduce Siroco’s sale price, and the French deadline for a deal was due in September.
Whatever the real story, the Ministry of Defence has reported that it is now looking for an alternative vessel that ticks all the necessary boxes.