Indian Navy’s three-decade-old fleet of minesweepers is depleting at a fast rate and yet, a Rs 24,000-crore contract proposal to augment it with eight new Korean-made vessels is entangled in the Defence Ministry’s redtape for nearly three years now.
The Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMV) -- capable of minesweeping and minehunting -- are critical to naval operations to carry out sweeps at the entry and exit points of dockyards to sanitise these passageways of enemy mines ahead of Indian warships sailing out to the sea.
India had, after a decade-long procurement process, zeroed in on the South Korean shipyard, Pusan-based Kangnam Corporation, as the lowest bidder in a tender for construction of MCMVs for the Indian Navy in 2010.
“Three years since, the contract negotiations have not happened and the contract proposal for the MCMV is now buried among files in the Defence Ministry,” lamented a senior Indian Navy officer, when Express asked him about the progress in the minesweepers procurement.
The Navy had expected the Defence Ministry to conclude the contract as soon as Kangnam was identified as the foreign shipyard to provide the minesweepers in view of the urgency felt in adding these specialist vessels in to the fleet.
With a variety of naval mines that are triggered by pressure, acoustic or electro-magnetic signals from a surface warship or a submarine available in the arms bazaar, these are some of the cheapest ways to sink an enemy warship.
Laying of these mines are quite easily done and hence the threat perception from these self-contained explosives to warships are quite high, Navy officers pointed out. “Hence the urgency in procuring these specialist vessels and inducting them as early as humanly possible,” they added.
According to the tenders, the chosen shipyard was to build the first two MCMVs and the rest six were to be constructed at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) under a licence, with technology transfer being part of the contract. This was to create capabilities at GSL to build minesweepers in the future, as a requirement for more of these vessels was envisioned.