Tamil Nadu's Kattupalli port may turn repair hub of US warships
Strategic port won’t be used as naval base, says embassy official
CHENNAI: US Navy warships are likely to undergo repair at Larsen and Toubro’s shipyard at Kattupalli port in Chennai as per a landmark five-year master shipyard repair agreement (MSRA) signed last month between the US Navy and Larsen & Toubro. Currently, the shipyard is providing repairs for US Navy civil command ships.
This could mean that Chennai could become the hub for carrying out repairs of United States Ships (USS) or warships along with civil command ships, highlighting the importance of the city being considered a strategic location for the Americans.
US Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation Chief Capt. Michael L Farmer said MSRA does allow USS commissioned vessels including those in conflict. He, however, rejected that the Kattupalli shipyard would be used as a US naval base.
“USS ships could visit Kattupalli in future if the two governments work out an arrangement. US ships would also come for works like mid-corrosion control and others. Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant uses LM2500, the same kind of engine used by the US Navy. The shipyard could be used for a variety of ships. For the time being, we are using US Navy civil command ships,” said Farmer.
He was speaking after Military Sealift Command’s rescue and salvage ship, USNS Salvor, arrived at Kattupalli shipyard, becoming the first vessel to come for repairs after signing the MSRA accord.
The ship, the third from the US Navy civil command in the last nine months, arrived on Sunday for steelwork repairs. The other two vessels that arrived include USNS Charles Drew and USNS Matthew Perry.
On whether the US is looking at shipyards in the western part of India to cater to US naval ships, Farmer said that they are keen on working with India and it is possible in the future to have services in other ports as they meet the status of MSRA.
According to sources, the US is looking at public sector undertakings, Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) and Goa Shipyard, to allow service and repair of the US mid-voyage vessels. Farmer said US Navy ships coming from Africa would be looking into facilities in Mumbai and Goa.
Unlike the Seventh Fleet, the Fifth Fleet could not arrange something for ships coming from Central command operations, which include the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean in Mumbai. This would mean Indian shipyards would be catering to US Navy vessels from both Pacific Command and Central Command.
Farmer said geopolitically Kattupalli port is a good spot for vessels transitioning from Bay of Bengal and those operating in this part of Indo-Pacific command. He also highlighted the quality of service provided by Larsen and Toubro Shipyard.
US Consul General in Chennai Judith Ravin said MSRA is a legally non-binding arrangement between the US Navy and private shipbuilding contractors to pre-approve shipyards to repair US Naval vessels.
Earlier, USNS Salvor was welcomed with a ceremony at L&T Shipyard on Monday.