In a first, a U.S. Navy Ship, Charles Drew, arrived in India for carrying out repairs and allied services at Larsen & Toubro’s (L&T) Shipyard at Kattupalli, Chennai, on Sunday adding a new dimension to the fast expanding Indo-U.S. strategic partnership.
“This is the first ever repair of a U.S. Navy ship in India. The U.S. Navy had awarded a contract to L&T’s Shipyard at Kattupalli for undertaking maintenance of the ship. The event signifies the capabilities of Indian shipyards in the global ship repairing market,” a Defence Ministry statement said.
The USNS Charles Drew will be at the Kattupalli shipyard for a period of 11 days and undergo repairs in various areas.
At the India-U.S. 2+2 in April, both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of utilising Indian shipyards for the repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command to support mid-voyage repair of U.S. Naval ships.
Member of the Executive Council and Advisor to the CEO of L&T for Defence and Smart Technologies J.D. Patil said that the Marine Sealift Command of the U.S. Navy had undertaken rigorous evaluation of select shipyards in India and cleared L&T for undertaking repairs on their vessels which he said was “a recognition for the modern infrastructure at the shipyard built to global standards.”
Terming the event a red-letter day for the Indian shipbuilding industry and Indo-U.S. defence relationship, Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar described the arrival of USNS Charles Drew for repairs as a sign of a maturing Indian shipbuilding industry.
“Today, India has six major shipyards with a turnover of nearly $2 billion. We are making ships not only for our own requirements. We have our own design house capable of making all kinds of state-of-the-art ships. The country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant is a shining example of the growth of the Indian shipbuilding industry,” he said.
Dr. Kumar also asserted that the ties between India and the U.S. have been expanding in scale and scope and are based on common values and beliefs of “an open, inclusive and rule-based order in Indo-Pacific and rest of the global common systems.”
In the next two to three years, India would see the first large size marine diesel engine being designed and developed in the country, Dr. Kumar said.
He further said, in a big step towards ship building efforts, a decision had been made to develop the capabilities of naval shipyards and marine diesel engines in India of six mega watts and above would be designed and manufactured in the country.
Request for proposal in this regard will be floated by the Indian Navy. “It has been decided to develop the diesel marine engine under the ‘make-one’ procedure wherein the government provides 70% assistance to the project cost for design and development of the engine and in the in-principle approval has been given,” he added.
The USNS Charles Drew ship will be in the port for repair from August 7 to August 17.
Judith Ravin, US Consul General in Chennai, said, “In April, at the US - India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin affirmed their intention to explore utilising Indian shipyards for repairs on US Navy vessels. This inaugural repair of a United States Naval Ship, the Charles Drew, conducted by the L&T Kattupalli shipyard, is a landmark development to be celebrated as a symbol of our strengthened U.S.-India partnership.”
S.N. Ghormade, Vice Chief of Naval Staff, said Voyage Repair Availability (VRS) of USNS Charles Drew at L&T Kattupalli shows the kind of mutual trust and also consolidates our status as a major defence partner. This historic development between India and US will strengthen the cooperation in maritime domain too.
Dr. Kumar said, the country has seen significant progress in the Indo US Defence relationship in the last couple of years. “In the defence industry cooperation we have seen tremendous amount of traction. India’s defence exports have seen huge increase in the last four to five years. From 2015-2016 to the present, exports have seen a massive growth. Major destination for Indian exports is to the US. This ship building exercise adds a new chapter in the defence exports. This is also a sign of maturing of ship building industry,” he added.
(With inputs from Sunitha Sekar)