India is likely to sign a Rs 32,000-crore deal with a South Korean shipyard for building 12 minesweeping vessels in the country by March 31.
The mine counter-measure vessels will be built at the Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) in collaboration with Busan-based Kangnam Corporation under the Centre’s Make in India initiative. Though the deal was supposed to be closed last year, discussions on technology transfer to India caused some delays.
Minesweepers are used to keep sea lanes mine-free and destroy minefields near enemy shores while undertaking offensive action.
“We are working hard to conclude the contract this financial year,” GSL chairman Rear Admiral Shekhar Mital (retd) told HT on Tuesday. “Technology transfer is a complex issue, and both sides have to be satisfied. Ironing out the details took some time.”
Kangnam had competed with Italian shipbuilder Intermarine for the project.
All 12 vessels will be constructed in India, and are expected to have 60% indigenous content. The construction of the first vessel is expected to begin in April 2018, and deliveries will be completed between 2021 and 2026.
The navy needs to fill several gaps in its mine warfare capability. Its present mine counter-measure force consists of six vessels bought from the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s. An estimated 24 minesweepers are required to plug the shortfall.
Until now, the GSL has spent Rs 800 crore on scaling up infrastructure to kick off construction of the vessels. Facilities are being created for building glass-reinforced plastic hulls, a design that reduces the ship’s magnetic signature and allows safer navigation through waters that be mined. The minesweepers will have a displacement of 800 to 1,000 tonnes.
Mines are deployed to limit the enemy’s ability to use the sea. These underwater weapons can detonate on contact, or be activated by magnetic and acoustic signatures.
After scrapping an earlier tender to import minesweeping vessels due to alleged irregularities, the government nominated the GSL in February 2015 to build minesweepers in partnership with a foreign shipyard for giving an impetus to the Make in India programme.