All 6 minesweepers with Indian Navy to retire this year

Eager to get cracking on the much-delayed, ₹32,000-crore mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV) project, a global Expression of Interest (EoI) has been floated by Goa Shipyard Ltd to prequalify foreign shipyards that would participate in the venture.

This is the Indian shipyard’s third attempt in the last ten years to build the warships at its facility.

Technology Transfer

An official at Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) confirmed that the company is looking to “prequalify foreign shipyards with proven capability to design and construct MCMVs with single skin, non-stiffened hull.”

The official said the qualified shipyard would subsequently be issued a RFP (request for proposal) for the “supply of design and transfer of technology, which has been the main issue in the earlier tenders, as also specify infrastructure deliverables and guarantee the performance of the vessels to be constructed by GSL.”

Urgent Requirement

Sources said all the six MCMVs currently operational in the Indian Navy, procured from the erstwhile Soviet Union, are set to retire by the end of this year. They have been in operation for over 26 years. The rapid induction of MCMVs is imperative.

The Indian Navy requires at least 24 MCMVs urgently. The construction of the first vessel was expected to begin in April 2018, with deliveries to be completed between April 2021 and April 2026. With two tenders getting scrapped, the Make in India MCMVs have been further delayed.

The (third) global tender was floated on March 21, 2018, and is set to close on April 19, 2018.

GSL Modernisation

GSL has been in the midst of a modernisation programme over the last few years, and is in the process of creating new infrastructure for the indigenous construction of the MCMVs.

An official said the infrastructure modernisation plan “was being implemented in four phases, of which Phase 1 and 2 were completed in March 2011, and Phase 3A was completed by November 2016. Work is ongoing at the yard for the balance phases, which are Phase 3B and 4, and is scheduled to be completed by 2020.”

Once the modernisation plan is completed, the shipyard would be capable of building “Fibre Reinforced Plastic Hull MCMVs indigenously, with the help of transfer of technology” from the foreign shipyard. As of now, the technology to manufacture the high-tech vessels rests only with six countries.

“MCMVs can have glass-reinforced plastic hulls to conceal their presence from the threat of sea-mines. Fibre reinforced is the latest element. These ships clear the way of mines to allow safe passage for larger forces, swiftly detecting and destroying any hidden dangers, and are essential for detecting and destroying mines, which are a constant threat to submarines,” the official said.

The modernisation plan for the MCMV facility at GSL “is being executed partly from internal accruals and partly from government funding.” GSL’s internal accruals for the project is around Rs ₹300 crore. The government sanctioned Rs ₹400 crore in October 2010 towards development of the facilities, and another Rs ₹480 crore in 2015 for the augmentation of infrastructure for the balance phases (Phase 3B and 4).