KOLKATA: Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Limited (GRSE) is working on making 7.5 metre double-lane bailey bridges for the army to facilitate movement of tanks. The company's research team is also looking to develop 30-feet long portable bridges, which can be carried in parts on shoulders.

"Indian Army wants 7.5 mt wide double-lane bridges over which tanks can move. We are working on it and a prototype is likely to be ready by the end of 2018," said GRSE chairman cum managing director rear admiral (retired) V K Saxena.

Stating that bailey or suspension bridges are in demand, Saxena said that apart from the hill states, the likes of Odisha, Maharashtra and deluge-hit Kerala are also in talks with GRSE for supply of these. "Since these steel bridges cannot be blown away, Maharashtra is seeking to install these structures in Maoist-affected areas. The state is looking for around 100 bailey bridges from GRSE to be installed in areas like Gadchiroli. As per Kerala's Public Works Department, the recent floods in the state damaged 218 bridges. Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Thrissur districts have suffered the most," Saxena told media persons on Wednesday.

Elaborating further, Saxena said the governments of West Bengal has also approached GRSE to re-construct bridges. The West Bengal government has approached the company for possible erection of two bailey bridges in south Kolkata to ease traffic after collapse of Majerhat bridge on Diamond Harbour Road near Taratala. The falling of concreted Majerhat bridge on September 4, in which three persons were killed, has virtually clogged traffic on a major part of South 24 Parganas district.

The Kolkata based ship building company manufactures portable steel bridges (30 feet to 230 feet) at its Kolkata and Ranchi facilities. It also exports bailey bridges to neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, apart from supplying to several state governments within the country. The company is also eyeing more ship repair contracts as a sizeable revenue stream going ahead.

“The Indian Naval fleet is ageing and needs repairs. So, we are negotiating with the Navy on securing annual maintenance contracts and retrofitting works,” Saxena said, adding, the margin in repair business is around 25-27 %. 

Saxena said that GRSE, which has a capacity to build 20 ships concurrently, is working on a modernisation plan to enhance its capabilities to make 24 ships by 2021-22 by utilising space available at its Rajabagan dockyard in Kolkata. The company is bullish on securing orders from Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard on the back of an aggressive fleet expansion plan lined up by both the entities keeping in view the threat perceptions in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. "There will be no dearth of orders for GRSE in the foreseeable future," Saxena said.