India, South Korea struggle to seal Rs 32,000-cr minesweeper deal

A Rs 32,640-crore project to fill gaps in the navy’s mine warfare capability has hit commercial complications, with India and South Korea struggling to hammer out a deal to build mine-counter measure vessels (MCMVs, or minesweepers) in the country, Hindustan Times has learnt.

Navies deploy minesweepers to secure harbours by locating and destroying mines.

Twelve MCMVs are to be built at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) in collaboration with Korea‘s Kangnam Corporation under the Make in India programme.

India was hoping to sign the contract in August 2016.

“Some commercial issues have delayed the deal. We are working diligently to resolve those issues,” GSL chairman Rear Admiral Shekhar Mital told HT. “It is important to address each other’s concerns in such complex programmes.”

The navy needs to swiftly scale up its mine warfare capability.

Its present mine counter-measure force consists of six vessels bought from the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s. Navy officers said the force requires an estimated 24 minesweepers to secure major harbours in the country.

The scenario is likely to worsen in the coming years as the existing minesweeper fleet is on its way to be decommissioned by next year.

The navy would be without a single minesweeper till 2021, warned a March 2017 parliamentary report on the alarming decline in naval force levels. Navy sources said any further delay in closing the deal would mean that the navy could be without minesweepers even beyond 2021.

The construction of the first vessel is supposed to begin in April 2018, and deliveries of all 12 MCMVs are to be completed between 2021 and 2026. The vessels are expected to have 60% indigenous content.

GSL has spent hundreds of crores on creating infrastructure to kick off construction of the vessels.

Facilities have been created for building glass-reinforced plastic hulls, a design that reduces the ship’s magnetic signature and allows safer navigation through waters that are mined. These underwater weapons can detonate on contact, or be activated by magnetic and acoustic signatures.

Hindustan Times