As U.S. looks to make India hub for ship repairs, India eyes major opportunity

L&T and U.S. Navy sign five-year Master Ship Repair Agreement

July 12, 2023 09:54 am | Updated 10:48 am IST - NEW DELHI

A ship docked at Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Shipyard, at Kattupalli Port in Chennai.

A ship docked at Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Shipyard, at Kattupalli Port in Chennai. | Photo Credit: PTI

A U.S. Navy rescue and salvage ship USNS Salvor entered Larsen & Toubro shipyard at Kattupalli near Chennai on Sunday becoming the third ship to come to India for repairs as the two countries look to scale this up significantly as the U.S. is keen to make India a hub for its ship repairs in the region. It is also the first ship to arrive since the signing of the five-year Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) between the U.S. Navy and L&T on Monday.

“This MSRA is yet another milestone in our ever-expanding U.S.-India partnership. This historic agreement is a direct outcome of the 2022 U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue and demonstrates U.S. commitment to utilize repair facilities on a regular basis at the L&T shipyard in Kattupalli. This agreement will serve to strengthen our two nations’ strategic partnership and contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Judith Ravin, the U.S. Consul-General in Chennai at a ceremony. L&T has earlier undertaken voyage Repairs of Marine Sealift Command (MSC) Fleet Support Ships – USNS Charles Drew and USNS Matthew Perry, as reported by The Hindu earlier.

Against the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s U.S. visit last month, there have been significant discussions on this, according to official sources adding that India has invited the U.S. to evaluate more shipyards. India has asked the U.S. to also look at other shipyards and is also to finalising MRSA Mazagon Dock Limited and Goa Shipyard, one official said. In addition, the Pipavav shipyard which is owned by Anil Ambani Group is likely to be acquired by another company and revived with fresh investment which could also be looked at as it is a very modern yard, the official noted.

In 2017, Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) had signed a MSRA with U.S. Navy after Pipavav Shipyard was qualified by U.S. Navy as an approved contractor to perform repairs and alternation services for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet vessels operating in the region. However, the shipyard went bankrupt later and defence officials say it could be revived again.

In the joint statement issued after the talks between Mr. Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden, the two leaders welcomed India’s “emergence as a hub for maintenance and repair” for forward deployed U.S. Navy assets and the conclusion of MRSA with Indian shipyards. “This will allow the U.S. Navy to expedite the contracting process for mid-voyage and emergent repair. As envisaged in the Defence Industrial Roadmap, both countries agree to work together for the creation of logistic, repair, and maintenance infrastructure for aircrafts and vessels in India,” the statement said.

These agreements will allow mid-voyage U.S. Navy ships to undergo service and repair at Indian shipyards, facilitating cost-effective and time-saving sustain for U.S. military operations across multiple theatres, a White House statement said.

Speaking to reporters in Washington D.C. on June 23, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the aim is to make India a logistics hub for the U.S. and other partners in the region. “We intend to support India in the creation of logistics, repair, and maintenance infrastructure for aircraft and ships… that is obviously something that will be important as we work together to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he had stated.

A statement from L&T said that it’s Kattupalli Shipyard is one of the modern shipbuilding and ship repair facilities in this part of the world and is equipped with a heavy ship-lift, multiple dry berths, and wet berths to concurrently enable building of new ships and undertaking repairs and refits.

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