India's existing fleet of Minesweepers are of Soviet vintage which needs immediate replacement

PANAJI: Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) has started a fresh search for technology partners to help build 12 mine counter-measure vessels (MCMV) to fill the wide gap in the current fleet of the Indian Navy

's minesweepers. The Vasco-based yard has issued an expression of interest (EoI) requesting foreign shipyards to pre-qualify for the Rs 32,000-crore project. 

Speaking exclusively to TOI, chairman and managing director of GSL, Shekhar Mital confirmed that the defence public sector undertaking had floated a global EoI, and was awaiting response from the shipyards with technology to construct minesweepers with single skin, non-stiffened hull.

“We have floated the EoI and we are waiting for responses. There is a time frame for shipyards to respond and once we evaluate them, we will follow it with a request for proposal,” Mital said.

TOI was the first to report that the ministry of defence had terminated negotiations with Kangnam Corp, a South Korean firm.

Defence ministry sources suggested that very few countries have the expertise to build minesweepers with non-magnetic hulls and high-definition sonars, and minesweepers with the ability to conduct acoustic and magnetic sweeps to detect marooned and drifting mines.

Other than Kangnam Corp, Italy’s Intermarine and Sweden’s SAAB Kockums are some of the foreign shipyards that specialise in building mine counter-measure vessels.

GSL will be participating in Defexpo 2018, Chennai and is expected to meet potential technology partners and foreign delegations that could play a role in this critical project.

Currently, the Indian Navy is left with just four ageing minesweepers to protect 14 ports around the country. Naval officials said that it could take another year for the discussions on technology transfer, which India is insisting upon, to be concluded.

“We have to put majority of the infrastructure, expertise and planning into place to be able to start construction of the MCMVs by 2019,” Mital said. 

Though GSL has taken up significant capacity augmentation, it would take more than two years for the first indigenously built minesweeper vessel to be in commissioned into the Indian Navy. 

This is India’s third attempt to indigenously build and design mine counter-measure vessels using glass-reinforced plastic hulls. 

The earlier two attempts saw Kangnam Corp being selected as the technology partner but each time the discussions failed.