Understaffed Danish Arctic Patrols Stop for Crews to Take a Nap

Understaffed Danish Arctic Patrols Stop for Crews to Take a Nap

A beautiful view in NuukUnderstaffed Danish Arctic Patrols Stop for Crews to Take a NapInternationalIndiaAfricaThe worsening lack of staff in the Danish military endangers both the Nordic country’s own defense plans and its overseas commitment to allies. To illustrate the shortage, Danish sailors drew a sports metaphor, comparing the situation with a football team putting up only eight players for a match.While Copenhagen’s military ships are supposed to keep a watchful eye on the waters around distant parts of the Danish Realm such as the Faroe Islands and Greenland around the clock, the dramatic lack of staff means that Arctic patrols are put on pause so that crews can rest or sleep.Instead of operating 24/7, Danish inspection ships have to be content with patrolling during normal office hours, seeking port or dropping anchor at night.”As it is at the moment, we are often dropping anchor in the evening, so that the crew can rest until the next day,” senior sergeant and trade union representative, Niels Pihlblad, told Danish media in a dramatic admittance of the scope of the problem. As per Pihlblad, all surveillance is thereby “throttled” until the next day.As of now, every fourth berth at 1st Squadron, the unit in the Danish Navy that sails in the waters off Greenland and the Faroe Islands, is currently empty. In only a year and a half, the number of empty berths has doubled.To emphasize the urgency of the problem, Finn Baek Karlsson of the 1st Squadron drew a colorful sports metaphor.”If a football team turns up eight people for a match, then the result will be the same,” he said, stressing that the severe lack of staff wears down crews even despite stopping for rest. “When people are missing, there are others who have to take over. If there is a shortage of staff on the watch, others have to cover twice as much.”He warned that if this continues, the Navy won’t have enough people to solve all the tasks imposed by politicians.

The lack of personnel implies that some of the tasks are already no longer available, such as fishing inspections on high seas. Trade union representatives also warned of a "downward spiral" when tired crew members are repeatedly asked to take an extra tour.

Acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen warned that in the absence of targeted measures, the problem may worsen.

"I myself am worried that we will lose too many talented employees because they are simply out sailing too much and staying at home too little," Troels Lund Poulsen said.

Denmark utilizes two kinds of ships for its Arctic patrols: four inspection ships of the Thetis-class and three inspection ships of the Knud Rasmussen-class. The vessels’ tasks are military defense of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, enforcement of sovereignty, sea rescue, and assisting the police and medics in visiting remote settlements. When the ships are patrolling the North Atlantic, the operations are managed by the Arctic Command in Nuuk.Numerous sources in the Danish military have stressed that the Arctic waters are among the most important not only for the Danish Realm per se, but for NATO as well, partly because of the supply routes between Europe and the US, and partly because of key cables on the seabed.Understaffed Danish Arctic Patrols Stop for Crews to Take a NapMilitaryGreenland to Receive NATO Representation for First Time Ever21 March, 06:08 GMTMeanwhile, the lack of staff is apparent across the country’s entire military. In 2022 alone, nearly 2,000 people left the Danish military, which totals some 15,000 troops. According to reports, none of the Danish Army’s regiments can muster full strength as of now. At best, “only” every 10th soldier is missing. At worst, more a third are. This imperils both Denmark’s own defense plans and overseas commitments, as Copenhagen recently decided to withdraw all its military specialists from Iraq and Syria to tackle threats in close proximity to the country’s own borders.


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