Second submarine line for Mazagon Dock

With public sector shipyard Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL), Mumbai, yearsbehind schedule in building six conventional Scorpene submarines forthe Indian Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is handing Mazagon Dockanother lucrative order to build three more submarines.

Althoughprivate sector shipbuilders — especially L&T and Pipavav ShipyardLtd (PSL) — argue that Mazagon Dock already has more than it canhandle, MoD insists the public sector shipyard can execute this order.

The MoD’s Secretary of Defence Production, R K Singh, talkingexclusively to Business Standard, has detailed Mazagon Dock’s road mapfor simultaneously executing the Scorpene order (Project 75, as it istermed) and the three additional submarines that are a part of thesix-submarine Project 75I order.

Business Standard had reported yesterday that the MoD’s apex DefenceAcquisition Council (DAC) had ruled out India’s private sector fromProject 75I. The first two submarines of Project 75I will be builtabroad in the foreign collaborator’s shipyard. The other foursubmarines will be built in MoD-owned shipyards: recently acquiredHindustan Shipyard Ltd will build one, while MDL builds three.

R K Singh explains, “First, the Scorpene delay will be trimmed down toless than 18 months. The original plan was for the first Scorpene to bedelivered in December 2012; and the other five submarines at one-yearintervals till December 2017. While the first Scorpene will only beready in August 2015, Mazagon Dock will deliver the others faster, atnine-month intervals, and finish the last Scorpene by May 2019.”

MoD sources say Mazagon Dock is being pushed towards an even moreambitious delivery schedule: Of one Scorpene every seven months. OnAugust 11, Defence Minister A K Antony told Parliament that Project 75would complete work by the second half of 2018.

But Project 75I, argues R K Singh, does not have to wait till then; itcan begin as early as 2012. By that year, with all six Scorpene hullsfully built, the specialised hull workers and welders of Mazagon Dockcould begin fabricating hulls for Project 75I.

Singh explains, “Two Scorpene hulls are already built and MDL is closeto completing the third. By early 2012, all six Scorpene hulls will beready. MDL’s hull fabrication shop — which cuts steel for the hull,rolls it, fabricates hull segments and then welds them together into acomplete hull — will be sitting idle from 2012, and ready to bediverted to Project 75I.”

The Department of Defence Production also points out that Project 75Icannot begin for another five years. At least 12-24 months are neededfor a Cabinet sanction for building the first two Project 75Isubmarines abroad. Selecting a foreign shipyard as collaborator forProject 75I will take another 24-36 months and then one year for pricenegotiations.

The six Project 75I submarines will be built on a new production line,on which work has already begun. During a visit to MDL in 2009,Business Standard was shown a 16-acre plot, adjoining MDL’s facilitiesin Mazagon, Mumbai, which the shipyard had acquired in the 1980s fromGujarat state PSU, Alcock Ashdown.

R K Singh confirmed, “We are going to execute Project 75I in a newyard, the Alcock Yard, on which MDL is building a second submarineproduction line.”

Private sector shipbuilder Larsen & Toubro finds the MoD’s decisionto patronise Mazagon Dock inexplicable. L&T sources say the companywas given to understand that they would participate in Project 75I asthe second submarine line. Now, L&T’s experience and infrastructurewould lie idle.

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