The Indian Navy will commission the first Shivalik class frigate later this month. The project took over a decade to complete, highlighting the problems of time overruns being faced in domestic ship-building, a point stressed by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma.
The keel-laying for the first of the three Shivalik class ships was done in 2001, but its completion was delayed on account of a series of issues, including steel being sourced from outside and weapons systems. Defence Minister A.K. Antony is scheduled to commission the ship at Mumbai on April 29.
While naval officials maintained that delays in the first of the series are to be expected, the overall view is that the time taken by Indian ship-builders is much more than international standards.
In its latest report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, for the second year in a row, noted that the Navy does not have the accepted force level of 138 ships determined in 1964.
The present strength of the Navy is 129, including 37 major war vessels such as a carrier, destroyers and frigates, 16 submarines, 59 minor war vessels and 17 auxiliary ships.
Recently, Admiral Verma told The Hindu that while there was a proactive system for approval by the government to build ships, the problem lay in converting these into deliverables.
“If you look at ship-building periods [in India], take frigates, destroyers, corvettes, and benchmark it against world standards [of] how much time it takes to finish [a project]of that size and complexity, there is a fair amount of catching up [to do],” he told The Hindu.
For instance, he said the Navy had ordered two fleet tankers being built by a shipyard in Italy, which was being done in two years flat.
Comparatively, this would take more time in India though labour is cheaper.
With the government's reluctance to engage overseas shipyards for building warships, the Navy came out with a document on the imperative to revitalise the domestic ship-building industry with suggestions to deal with the issue.