Courtesy the Kolkata-based defence PSU Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE), India has joined the elite club of warship exporters when the mini-ratna company delivered the first corvette class warship, worth $58.5 million, to Mauritius.
The DPSU shipyard has constructed and delivered as many as 92 warships for Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard so far.
“With the augmentation of state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities, the defence PSU is poised to take newer challenges to build the most modern warships, including frigates, corvettes, landing ships, patrol & survey vessels and fast attack crafts for both the Indian Navy as well as the Coast Guard”, says, Rear Admiral AK Verma (Retd), chairman-cum-managing director. “Building in India provides significant cost advantages like cheaper labour when compared with most foreign shipyards”, Verma points out.
The company, he says, has got several export orders and now has the singular credit of being the first DPSU shipyard to export offshore patrol vessel (MOPV) ‘Barracuda’ to the government of Mauritius. Barracuda is designed and built by GRSE.
The Barracuda has another feature that is a first for its class—a pollution control suit that can be used to deal with oil spills. Unlike in the past, India no longer needs to look to foreign manufacturers for warships. All its boats are now being manufactured in Indian shipyards.
Recently, the ministry of defence even cancelled a proposal to buy submarines to replace and strengthen the aging fleet. It asked the Navy to identify an Indian shipyard which could acquire the technology from a foreign partner and build submarines in India.
GRSE is also finalising the design of a series of 140-tonne fast patrol boats for the Vietnam Navy. New Delhi has offered a line of credit to Vietnam for that order. This is the first time an Indian shipyard has been commissioned to design and build a warship to specifications formulated by a buyer country.
Data show India’s total defence exports were R446.75 crore in 2012-13; R686.27 crore in 2013-14 and R166.67 crore till September 2014. The export of the Barracuda would, therefore, be a significant success.
Senior naval officers have long argued for exporting warships to friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific region. This, they said, would strengthen India’s security partnerships, while providing economy of scale to India’s warship builders and ancillary companies.
As an example of successful indigenisation, Verma points to the Kamorta-class anti-submarine corvettes that GRSE is building. He says: “The challenge is not just to build warships in India, but to also increase the indigenous content of each vessel. In the Kamorta-class, we have brought the overall indigenous content to about 90%.” It is also the first naval warship built with indigenously developed special grade high-tensile (DMR249A) steel produced by the Steel Authority of India. The hull of the ship encompasses the bulk of sensors and weapon systems that are also indigenously manufactured by various Indian industries.
The anti-submarine corvette brings to fruition a significant project in India’s pursuit for self-reliance in indigenous warship building, bringing closer home the Navy’s quest to be a “Builder’s Navy” as well as a true “Blue-water Navy” with ships and submarines designed and built within the country.
In 2013-14, GRSE achieved the highest ever ‘value of production’ of R1,611.67 crore as against 1,529.15crore during the previous year. The sales for the year amounted to R308.19 crore against R464.21 crore in the previous year.
The present order book position of the company is of R10,404 crore. Out of these, sales of about R5,257 crore have been completed. The company’s turnover last fiscal was R1,600 crore.
Claiming that Indian Navy has become 99% indigenised, Verma said GRSE will be developing 44 warships in the next ten years. Appreciating the enhanced foreign direct investment allowed in the defence sector, Verma said higher FDI would help procure technology, wherever needed, and manufacture components in the country.
A R600-crore modernisation plan of its main yard at Garden Reach is complete and this has improved its production capability and lowered the time to build and commission a ship.
Verma said the modernisation would help GRSE to produce technologically advanced warships based on modular construction for the Indian Navy and secure more international orders.