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Indian Coast Guard expanding rapidly as shipyards pick up the pace

Warship Technology: January 2018Coast Guard


Deliveries to the Indian Coast Guard in 2017 were numerous, and included the last three of six 105m, 2,450tonne Samarth-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) from Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), the last of 20 50m, 270tonne Aadesh-class fast patrol vessels from Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), seven 28m Interceptor boats – six from Larsen & Toubro Shipbuilding (L&T) and one from Bharati Defence and Infrastructure Limited (BDIL) – as well as the last two of four 37m, 370tonne auxiliary ships for fuel and water transport from
Shoft Shipyard. 

 

Two other significant developments from 2017 involving India’s privately owned shipbuilders are noteworthy. One was the start of construction for a class of 14 48-50m fast patrol vessels at Reliance Naval & Engineering Limited (RNAVAL) Pipavav shipyard in August 2017. The other one was the launching of the first of seven 97m, 2,140tonne Vikram-class OPVs in a high state of completion at L&T’s Kattupalli yard on 27 October 2017, ahead of planned delivery in the March-April 2018 timeframe.

 

ICG fleet numbers
Speaking at the launching ceremony of the L&T built OPV in October, Additional Director General of the ICG, VSR Murthy noted that the ICG’s fleet numbered some 130 ships and 62 aircraft with no less than 70 more ships under construction at six shipyards.

 

As of November 2017, the list of platforms under construction included seven 97m Vikram-class OPVs at L&T; five 105m OPVs at GSL; a large cadet training vessel at Reliance (Pipavav); 20 48m-50m patrol vessels comprising one long-delayed Rani Abbaka-class hull from Hindustan Shipyard that has been ‘fitting out’ since July 2011, five hulls to a modified Rajshree-class design at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) whose construction was well underway by early 2017 with deliveries likely to commence by 2019, and 14 hulls at Pipavav with deliveries planned from January 2019 at three-month intervals. Others include several 28m interceptor boats with some 18-20 largely completed hulls awaiting delivery from L&T and 15 hulls under construction at Bharati.

 

The Bharati programme for 20 interceptor boats – 15 with Arneson surface drives and five waterjet-powered variants with MJP waterjets and rudders – that was contracted in March 2009 has been experiencing serious delays.

 

Bharati delivered four hulls intermittently between 2013 and 2016 as the cash-strapped shipbuilder sought financial relief. However, recent financial and corporate debt restructuring (CDR) efforts seem to having a positive effect as deliveries appear to have resumed. Recently, C161 – the fifth hull – was completed at its Mangalore yard and delivered to the ICG on 10 November, 2017.

 

Improved build process
While Indian public sector – government-owned – naval shipyards have traditionally been associated with extraordinarily long build periods and build quality issues, there has been a concerted effort at yard modernisation and process improvements over the last few years at these shipyards in a bid to achieve meaningful quantitative and qualitative improvements to the shipbuilding process and improve productivity.These efforts are yielding results.

 

GSL, for example, has reduced OPV build periods from 60-72 months to 36 months over the last four years besides improving build quality and significantly reducing the volume of post-delivery reworks – known as D-448 liabilities. GSL notes it completed all six Samarth-class OPVs ahead of a (revised) schedule with some ships in the series being delivered as much as 90 days ahead of the contractual schedule.

 

Even as it was wrapping up the 6CGOPV project, GSL commenced work on its next project – the 5CGOPV project – for five improved 105m, 2,400tonne OPVs in November 2016.

 

Going forward, GSL’s head, Rear Admiral S Mittal (retired), notes that GSL aims to reduce build period to “less than three years” for the 5CGOPV project as part of the yard’s continuous improvement efforts. GSL officials have subsequently confirmed that the target build period is 33 months or less. On the other hand, the few private Indian shipyards with warship building licenses – with the sole exception of L&T which quietly builds India’s nuclear-powered submarines – have had a checkered delivery record to date.

 

While L&T has essentially completed its 54-ship interceptor boat order about two years ahead of schedule and appears to be on track to complete its ongoing seven-ship OPV order ahead of schedule, other players like ABG, Bharati (BDIL) and Pipavav (RNAVAL) have experienced extensive delays to the extent of stopping production as a result of crushing debts.

 

Maintaining momentum
However, recent developments at Pipavav, which was acquired by the Reliance Group in early 2016, and is set to emerge from CDR, would seem to indicate that the yard has successfully tackled several production issues that hobbled productivity under its former owners. Still, it remains to be seen if the shipyard can maintain its momentum and execute the patrol vessel and training ship projects on time.

 

While senior ICG officials maintain that it is set to expand to 200 ships and 100 aircraft by 2022, in reality, it is struggling to cope with the influx of new platforms because of a shortage of trained crews for these ships.
In fact, shipbuilders like L&T have been asked to slow down deliveries. This, in conjunction with the decommissioning schedule of extant ships and possible delays with new ship deliveries, means that the
200-ship goal by 2022 may not quite be fully realised. But it will be close.

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