A Norwegian naval base in the Arctic converted into Russian-leased facility
At a cost of 40 billion Kroner in Norwegian and NATO funds ($6.67 billion), Olavsvern Naval Base was built on the Ramfjorden in northern Norway near Tromsø. From 1967 until 2002, it operated as a high security, nuclear attack resistant submarine base for the Royal Norwegian Navy. Not your usual naval base, it was literally carved out to the mountain, with underground submarine pens, barracks, and industrial facilities. Independent systems for power, water, and waste disposal were included. The base provided Norwegian and allied submarines with ready access to the Barents Sea and other Arctic waters, which was considered vital during the Cold War. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the perceived value of this unique and expensive asset was considerably lessened. With NATO approval, the Olavsvern Naval Base was deactivated in 2002 and officially closed in 2009. The Norwegian Government sought to dispose of its unwanted facility. It was offered for sale in the Norwegian version of eBay for an asking price of 105 million Kroner. The Government eventually accepted a bid from a group headed by the Norwegian businessman Gunnar Wilhelmsen at the knockdown price of 38 million Kroner. His firm announced plans to market the facility as a maintenance base for offshore oil and gas rigs and their associated equipment. The firm, Olavsvern Group AS, advertises that this site offers 25,000 square meters of caverns; 13,000 square meters of buildings (offices, storage halls, workshops, canteens, and a commuter hotel [barracks]); 3,000 square meters of ISPS-approved deepwater quay; and 106,000 square meters of rear areas. The facility is currently under lease to Russian companies linked to Gazprom, the Russian oil and gas conglomerate, and has lately been servicing Russian seismic survey vessels. The Norwegian defense lobby is alarmed at these developments, citing increased maritime operations in Arctic waters and heightened tensions with the Russian Federation.