Netherlands Submarine Import and Export Behavior


The Netherlands is an exporter of submarines and does not import them.


The Dutch shipbuilding industry is comprised of numerous yards, but only Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij Submarines B.V. (RDM) and the Wilton Fijenoord shipyard have constructed submarines. The latter closed its submarine division due to lack of orders in 1988 and RDM ceased production in 2004 for the same reason. [1]

RDM previously offered two types of submarines for export:

  • Zwaardvis-class: diesel-electric patrol submarines, decommissioned in the mid-1990s following service in the Royal Netherlands Navy.
  • Moray-class: diesel-electric submarines, with an optional air-independent propulsion (AIP) system based on RDM's SPECTRE (Submarine Power for Extended Contact Trailing and Range Enhancement) closed-cycle diesel technology. No Moray-class submarines have been produced to date.

RDM had experience in submarine design and construction, undertook maintenance and modernization efforts for the Dutch Navy, and offered logistic support along with training simulators and offset solutions for export customers. In the past 40 years, the company constructed a total of eight boats for the RNLN. [2]

The shipyard has undergone a number of ownership changes. As its strategic significance diminished due to post-Cold War defense cuts, the Dutch government sold RDM to Koninklijke Begemann Holding NV, a large industrial conglomerate, in 1991. Then, in 1990, a restructuring toward civilian production was undertaken and within five years the 70-30 split in favor of military engineering projects had been reversed. [3]

Although RDM continued to promote submarine exports to several countries, including Taiwan, the Dutch government prevented any sale to Taipei, due to the likely political repercussions on diplomatic relations with China. [4]

In 1996, RDM was acquired by Dutch entrepreneur Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen, who renewed the yard's determination to export submarines. Shortly before the change of ownership, RDM bought two decommissioned Zwaardvis-class boats from the RNLN. [5] These were to be sold as training vessels to inexperienced navies; RDM's long-term goal remained the future export of its Moray-class. Under pressure to find buyers for both its used Zwaardvis-class and new Moray-class boats, RDM continued to try to accommodate potential customers. In the early 2000s, it offered to transfer designs allowing for licensed production at U.S. yards (under RDM oversight) for vessels that would then be exported to Taiwan. [6] A similar deal was conceived to supply Egypt with submarines. As for the two decommissioned Zwaardvis-class boats, RDM sent them to the port of Lumut in an unsuccessful bid to sell them to the Malaysian Navy. [7]

In late 2004, van den Nieuwenhuyzen was pushed out of the defense industry amidst a financial scandal. At the time, van den Nieuwenhuyzen alleged that senior Dutch political figure Jozias van Aartsen (Dutch foreign minister from 1998 to 2002) had promised government compensation to RDM if it backed off the submarine sale to Taiwan. Van Aartsen denied the allegations. [8] Nevertheless, it became known that the Port of Rotterdam's general manager had secretly signed €100 million (about $123.5 million) in loan guarantees for RDM. The city-owned port became responsible for those loans, and by September 2004 there were reports that the Rotterdam Port had acquired RDM. [9]

Despite extensive contacts with numerous European and Southeast Asian navies, RDM failed to attract any customers for its boats. Since submarine production plays an important role in retaining the knowledge base necessary to remaining at the forefront of technological development, and given that the Dutch government shied away from the significant development costs needed for new submarine construction, RDM's prospects as a submarine producer were bleak. Its viability was dependent on its ability to secure export contracts, but no deals materialized, partly as a result of the Dutch government's decision to withdraw its support for the production of submarines for Taiwan. In November 2004, the Port of Rotterdam reported that RDM TDS had gone bankrupt . [10] Subsequently, RDM no longer produced submarines and its dry docks in Rotterdam lay derelict. Since no country was willing to purchase the two Zwaardvis-class submarines that had been sent to Malaysia, the government of the Netherlands paid to have them scrapped in 2006. [11]

[1] Alan Dickey, "Special report on the Netherlands: shipbuilding orders down," Lloyd's List International, 18 February 1992; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,
[2] RDM Submarines B.V.,
[3] Paul Berrill, "Submarine yard sold," Lloyd's List International, 6 July 1991; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,; Paul Berrill, "RDM profits hit by restructuring," Lloyd's List International, 8 June 1991; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,
[4] "Dutch deliberating Taiwanese sub sale," United Press International, 13 February 1992; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,; "Holland offers to help ROC build submarines," Central News Agency, 28 January 1993; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,; Alan Dickey, "RDM locked in Taiwan sub talks," Lloyd's List International, 12 September 1992; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,; "RDM in row over Taiwan subs bar," Lloyd's List International, 19 February 1992; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,
[5] "Nieuwenhuyzen neemt RDM over van Begemann," Het Financieele Dagblad, 10 February 1996; in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,
[6] "Worldwide Naval Projections Report for Netherlands," October 2001, AMI International,
[7] "Dutch Submarines Stranded in Lumut to be Sold as Scraps," Malaysia General News, 19 February 2006, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,; Mohd Haikal Mohamed Isa, Bernama, 1 January 2001; in "Companies for partnership due to Malaysia's impending purchase of submarines," FBIS Document SEP20010101000042.
[8] "Ex-minister denies promising RDM compensation," Expatica News, 1 September 2004;
[9] Joris Janssen Lok, "RDM takeover runs into turmoil," Jane's Defence Weekly, 8 September 2004.
[10] "Current situation port affair," 2 November 2004; Port of Rotterdam,
[11] "Dutch Submarines Stranded in Lumut to be Sold as Scraps," Malaysia General News, 19 February 2006, in Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe,

July 26, 2013
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The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.


This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2019.