Amid reports of India’s Scorpene submarine building programme at defence shipyard Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) suffering another jolt and resultant delay in the wake of the yard’s failure to renew its technology assistance contract with the Spanish Navantia, DCNS-India — subsidiary of the French defence shipbuilding firm DCNS which is the original manufacturer of the Scorpenes — insists that the project is very much on track.
“DCNS is the original manufacturer of the Scorpene submarine and we have all the know-how and design authority to perform TOTs [transfer of technology] for the complete submarine. We have provided MDL with technical assistance beyond contractual obligations in order to overcome teething problems and we will continue to do so until [the] successful completion of the project, Bernard Buisson, managing director of DCNS-India, told The Hindu over email when asked about the fallout of Navantia pulling out its consultants from the project.
While Navantia and French firm DCN (which later became DCNS) had jointly developed the Scorpenes, the two parted ways in 2010 following a spat, with DCNS becoming the only manufacturer of the diesel-electric submarines.
In his detailed response, Mr. Buisson chose to tacitly blame MDL for delaying the project for construction of six submarines for the Indian Navy, attributing the teething problems the yard faced and ostensibly overcome to its lack of submarine building experience in the last 15 years as also to the contractual obligation of building the entire class in India.
“….MDL had stopped manufacturing submarines for more than 15 years. Indeed, no shipyard can retain the expertise, know-how and trained staff if there is no permanent activity to maintain a minimum level of competence.
“Another specificity of this project is that all the six submarines are being built in MDL. Usually, for such contracts involving complex TOTs, the first of class (first submarine) is always manufactured at the OEM’s [original equipment manufacturer] shipyard with on-the-job training (OJT) from the buyer’s shipyard who can thus acquire know-how more rapidly,” he said.
The MDL had now been able to manufacture hulls of all six submarines as fast and with the same level of quality as DCNS would in its shipyard in France, he added.
According to Mr. Buisson, MDL’s complex procurement procedures too contributed to the delay.
“… The procurement of a large quantity of equipment from many different overseas suppliers is not an easy task and some of these foreign small and medium enterprises are not used to deal[ing] directly with foreign shipyards like MDL who have complex procurement procedures.
“The procurement for some items has been more difficult than expected for MDL and this is one of the main reasons, with the above-mentioned teething problems, for the known delays,” he said in the mail.
Calls and mails to MDL for its comment on Mr. Buisson’s observations remained unanswered.