Second submarine line for Mazagon Dock

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

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

The MoD’s Secretary of Defence Production, R K Singh, talking
exclusively to Business Standard, has detailed Mazagon Dock’s road map
for simultaneously executing the Scorpene order (Project 75, as it is
termed) and the three additional submarines that are a part of the
six-submarine Project 75I order.

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

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

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

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

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

The Department of Defence Production also points out that Project 75I
cannot begin for another five years. At least 12-24 months are needed
for a Cabinet sanction for building the first two Project 75I
submarines abroad. Selecting a foreign shipyard as collaborator for
Project 75I will take another 24-36 months and then one year for price
negotiations.

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 facilities
in Mazagon, Mumbai, which the shipyard had acquired in the 1980s from
Gujarat state PSU, Alcock Ashdown.

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

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