Under pressure from defence PSUs, the ministry of defence is likely to issue expression of interest (EOI) to Mazagon Dock (MDL) for the Rs 60,000-crore P-75i submarines project for the Navy. Already, Larsen & Toubro’s (L&T’s) Katupalli yard and Reliance Defence and Offshore Engineering Company are the only two private shipyards eligible to participate in P-75 i Programme. These two companies have also been shortlisted as strategic partners (SPs) under the strategic partnership model. However, this is contrary to the basic concept of the SP model which was earlier this month approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). “Originally, the concept of SP was meant to develop capabilities and capacities in the private sector, as the public sector shipyards have an existing order book position of nearly Rs 2 Lakh crore,” sources told FE. Sources further pointed out “With MDL getting the EoI there will be no transparency as the DPSU shipyard can cross subsidise to maintain monopoly.
It is already executing a programme for six ‘Scorpene’ class submarines for the Navy. Thus, there will be no level-playing field for the two private companies who were initially getting the EoI.” In case the public sector MDL is awarded the contract, then no alternative capacity and capability will be generated as was envisaged under the SP Model. Industry sources said, “If DPSUs are allowed to participate in the P 75i submarine programme, which are expected to be fitted with Defence and Research Development organisation (DRDO) Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology, it will kill take away any possibility of creating industrial base in country as was the plan under the SP model.”
Sources have indicated that MDL along with its French partner DCNS has already given a proposal to the MoD for three additional ‘Scorpene’ class submarines for the Navy, six submarines of the P75 project are being built by MDL through technology transfers from DCNS for the Indian Navy. In an earlier interaction with FE, MDL chairman and managing director Rear Admiral (retd) RK Shrawat had said, “… INS Kalvari, the first boat of P-75 was launched at MDL in Oct 2015. Time lines for delivery of successive boats have been compressed to 9 months and the project is expected to be completed by 2020.
Hull fabrication of all six submarines is complete. As a result, this facility is now idling. Also, a new workshop is being created in our Alcock Yard and is expected to be commissioned very soon. With this facility, a parallel, second line of construction of submarines can be activated in MDL. Besides this, the expertise gained in the construction of these boats puts MDL in a unique position to take on any further orders, be it extension of the Scorpene project or of P-75i.”
INS Kalvari, the first Scorpene class stealth submarine built under Project 75, is currently undergoing extensive sea trials, while INS Khanderi, the second indigenous Scorpene-class submarine was recently launched at MDL. Due to long delays in the ‘Scorpene’ (project 75) at MDL which was intended to induct the vessels at the rate on one ship per year since 2012 has left the Submarine force well below requisite levels. Also, previously planned induction of five midget submarines, combined with the fresh impetus on the strategic submarine programme constitute a work-load that is far beyond the capacity of existing public sector shipyards.