Ukraine’s Navy is dragging its heels on a People’s Project initiative to restore a warship in the country’s severely depleted naval fleet. “Netishyn” is a unique combat dive vessel with professional equipment purchased with the money entrusted to us by the people of Ukraine and further afield. However, the ship is in critically poor condition and needs immediate repair. Despite repeated appeals to Ukraine’s Naval bosses to get the refit of the ship underway, we get a “thanks for your interest”, but no progress.
Since Ukraine was deprived of the Crimean peninsula when it was annexed by Russia, the country has almost “forgotten” about its maritime border and territorial waters. However, the constant need to protect the maritime border from enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups from the Russian aggressor still exists. Ukraine’s territorial waters in the Black and Azov seas are becoming increasingly difficult to control. Constant violations of state marine borders by enemy vessels disguised as fishing boats or bulk carriers are being reported by naval crews who talk increasingly of enemy provocations on the sea.
In December 2015, two of Ukraine’s diving vessels performed a combat mission in the Black Sea – to protect oil (gas) mining platforms. They are scattered among Zmeinym island (near Illichivsk) and Tarhankut (Crimea). The Russian fleet had delivered its crew to service the platforms and blocked Ukraine’s approaches to their cruisers. The Ukrainian ships had no serious arms to use against the Russian sea fleet.
Ukraine’s remaining Naval vessels, which perform patrols of the border are far behind those of the enemy in terms of technical specifications. Add to this the fact more than two dozen ships were lost in Sevastopol when they fell into the hands of the Russian Federation. According to the leadership of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, most warships and vessels require a significant amount of maintenance and repair work, and many are in critical condition and require immediate dry-dock repair.
The People’s Project’s struggle to bring one of these ships up to combat capability began in the summer of 2015, when we met with the Netishyn crew. Since then the command of the Interior Ministry military unit (A1228) have repeatedly appealed for help and we have promptly provided much-needed devices, equipment and other essentials. In a few short months we have purchased a Raymarin AIS-350 for the automatic identification of ships and plotting position on maritime maps, remote antenna and sonar, a “Breeze” inflatable launch with a 15-horsepower engine, marine radio sets (seven units), the primary marine radio station, a draining pump with pipes, medicine, materials for repair of the ship’s hull and diving equipment. The total cost of assistance provided so far exceeds 200,000 UAH.
With the assistance of the Mykolaiv Regional Administration, we undertook a project to conduct the dry-dock repair of Netishyn. The last time the ship was in dry-dock was in 1999, although according to Ministry of Defense order number 855 passed in December 2012, dry-docking should be performed once every two years. In 2015 alone, Netishyn traveled 4749 nautical miles, twice as many as in 2014. The urgent need to conduct all the work has been confirmed by the crew and is verified by separate inspections by volunteers and specialized professionals.
During the execution of tasks and training, there is a significant ingress of water into the hold through the propeller shaft seals, the ship has more than once experienced depressurization of the sewage and waste-water tank followed by the waste-water flowing into the engine room, more than 50 rivets connecting the deck to the superstructure of the hull are missing, and there is significant vibration during movement of the vessel.
Recently Naval command put pressure on the Netishyn’s captain and crew to put to sea in sea-ice conditions without explanation, although the ship is not designed for this. A characteristic of Netishyn is it has no “ice zone” – a metal reinforced bow of the ship.
The crew is trying to carry out their tasks, with mixed success, the ship is falling apart before their eyes. Even now as Netishyn is docked in the port of Odesa, undergoing patch-ups to its corroded hull and superstructure. In fact, the ship is constantly undergoing spontaneous repair work “on the fly”, including on-board mechanical repairs.
The date the vessel was scheduled to be in dry-dock in early September 2015, but later at the request of navy management that date was moved to September 15, 2015 due to the exercise “Sea Brig 2015”. September 15, came and went because, under instructions from the navy the ship was required to perform an operation – the date being further extended to September 21. Subsequently, according to navy leadership the vessel will not be put in dry-dock, as there is no guarantee on the repair being conducted properly. However, The Okean Shipyard in Mykolaiv, the third major ship construction yard in the area is full equipped to carry out all dry-dock procedures, while the Southern Ship Repair Company has already committed to carrying out all specialized work. The estimated repair bill amounts to 2.5 million UAH. We launched our project to raise funds to purchase all materials needed and dry-dock fees and, to date, have collected more than 84,000 UAH. We have also procured materials for the repairs (welding electrodes, grinding wheels, metal) and have received corrosion-resistant paint and coatings from international company JOTUN, worth more than 300,000 UAH. The only thing standing in the way of work beginning is Ukraine’s Navy itself.
The People’s Project has repeatedly appealed to the the naval hierarchy and the supreme command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, we have received thanks us for our citizenship and indications the vessel may be released to us for repair in the fourth quarter of 2016. Alternatively, it has been suggested we raise funds to repair support craft such as the small fire boat “Yevpatoriya”.
We have already started to informing the public and media of the fickleness and arrogance of naval command in an attempt to force it to make a decision.
Meanwhile we continue raising funds for the Refitting Netishyn project. We are determined to have the ship in dry-dock in the near future and immediately implement all the planned work. Still needed to fund everything is almost 510,000 UAH.