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Navy wants competition in ship building

A rift has opened up between the Indian Navy and the defence production department of the Ministry of Defence about how the future warships will be built. The defence minister A K Antony had recently told Parliament that the navy will add five ships every year for the whole of the next decade.

But the navy believes that this can only be possible if the country’s shipyards pull up their socks and get down to the business with a lot more industry and earnestness. The force also has a plan for accomplishing this for the shipyards. It wants at least two of the shipyards or more to contest at the ship-design level between each other, so that the construction work for new ships can be allotted to the winner.

The navy says that the Chinese have used this kind of process and have been successful; the Americans did a similar exercise for the Virginia class. A researcher at the navy’s think tank National Maritime Foundation talked about how the Chinese did it.

'Interestingly, for every class of ships being constructed, there are two different shipyards undertaking the construction. This would probably be beneficial to the [Chinese] Navy as they do not have to rely on one shipyard for their ship construction programme. This would also help the PLAN to promote a healthy competition amongst shipyards and possibly get the best ships in terms of quality and delivery time,' wrote Commander Navaneetha Krishnan about the strategic advantage accruing to People’s Liberation Army-Navy due to this process.

But the defence production secretary Shekhar Agarwal has a problem with the concept. He says that the two similar ships being built by two separate shipyards will be wastage of public resources. The navy says, 'No. The competition between two shipyards need not reach the building stage. One of the competing two shipyards can be eliminated at the design level.'

A variant of this process is working for Project 17A, the upgraded Shivalik class stealth frigates that are being built by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders in Kolkata and Mazagon Docks Ltd in Mumbai.

The navy is quite insistent about this idea. It says that the Defence Procurement Procedure 2011 has for the first time laid down and documented the whole process of warship building, which has been a cumbersome exercise.
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