The mishap on board INS Kolkata that killed a naval officer on Friday at the Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL) has brought the functioning of public-sector shipyards, their ability to adhere to timelines and their global competitiveness under scrutiny.
With key warship projects recording delays and cost overruns, the government needs to revitalise shipbuilding by exploring opportunities for accelerating public-private partnerships, experts say. A few private shipyards have struck joint ventures (JV) with public sector undertakings to build warships but little headway has been made.
Crucial ongoing naval programmes such as Project-15A (stealth destroyers), P-17 (stealth frigates), P-28 (anti-submarine warfare corvettes) and P-75 (Scorpene submarines) have all been hit by delays of four to five years.
The Rs. 15,000-crore P-15A, under which INS Kolkata and two other warships are being built, has recorded a cost escalation of 225%.
“State-owned shipyards are incapable of meeting naval requirements. The private sector needs to be involved in a big way,” Gujarat-based Pipavav Shipyard chairman Nikhil Gandhi told HT. Pipavav has entered the warship-building sector through a JV with MDL but the partnership is yet to get off the drawing board.
State-owned shipyards are grappling with a raft of problems including inadequate infrastructure, financial mismanagement, availability of raw material and design and technology issues.
“These shipyards take more than 10 years to deliver a modern warship, while western and Korean shipyards can build a comparable boat in less than half that period,” a senior naval officer said.
The Indian Navy hopes to induct five new warships every year over the next five to seven years. Private shipyards are increasingly angling for defence orders because of shrinking business in the global shipping market. State-owned shipyards such as Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers and Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyard Limited have also shown interest in roping in JV partners.
Meanwhile, China has left Korea behind and emerged as the world’s leading shipbuilder, with the number of shipyards pegged at more than 1,600.