NEW DELHI — India's Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL) is looking for international companies with the technology the state-owned company needs to build 12 mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) for the Indian Navy.
GSL, which was awarded the $5 billion noncompetitive contract in 2014, has floated a global expression of interest (EOI) from companies willing to transfer the technology to build the vessels to the Indian shipyard.
Such a move could push the cost of building the ships in India higher compared with those built overseas, analysts here said, but the absorption of the technology would, in the long run, allow India to build more MCMVs.
A GSL executive said the company hopes for a good response to get the technology it needs from overseas. The EOI was sent to South Korea's Kangnam, Italy's Intermarine, Spain's Navantia, US-based Lockheed Martin, Germany's Thyssenkrupp and two Russian shipyards, he said.
GSL will short-list foreign shipyards with capability for design and construction of a single-skin, non-stiffened structure for the MCMV. A formal tender to the short-listed companies will follow, the GSL executive said.
The value of the transfer of technology contract is more than $1 billion, or about 20 percent of the total value of the contract, an Indian Navy official said.
Last year, the Ministry of Defense canceled a 2008 global tender in which Kangnam had emerged as the winner because of the South Korean company's alleged use of defense agents in pursuing the deal, which overseas defense companies are not allowed to do under Indian law.
Kangnam, however, appears to be staging a re-entry for the new technology transfer contract, analysts said.
"Kangnam have already invested time and effort and would be ready with the details," said Shyam Kumar Singh, a retired Indian navy captain. "As far as Intermarine of Italy is concerned, they have to compete with Kangnam, which is already ahead."
While the MCMV acquisition is delayed due to cancellation of the original tender and the GSL contract award, analysts say the absorption of technology would help in building more vessels in the future.
"Minesweepers or mine countermeasure vessels are very sophisticated technology products," said Sujeet Samaddar, a retired Indian Navy commodore. "Including hull material, acoustic and magnetic reduced signatures, mine-hunting sonars and remotely piloted vehicles, and also the design methodology are not easy. That said, it is not undoable in India, but that is like reinventing the wheel."
Anil Jai Singh, a retired Indian Navy commodore, said building the MCMV may not be exceedingly expensive. "More important will be the development of an indigenous capability to build a specialized vessel," he said. "On the choice of hull, the Navy must have taken an informed decision."
The Navy wants 800- to 1,000-ton vessels with composite anti-magnetic hulls that can clear sea mines laid by enemy warships, submarines and aircraft to blockade harbors during war, the Navy official said, and will aquire 24 such vessels over the next decade. The construction of the first vessel is expected to begin in April 2018, with deliveries to be completed between April 2021 and April 2026.
Currently the Indian Navy operates six to seven Soviet-built minesweepers bought in the late 1970s
India would be building an MCMV for the first time in a state-owned shipyard that was awarded the contract without competition, or through nomination, Samaddar said, noting that "nomination is always a bad idea, and the MoD has repeatedly said it will not nominate but continues to do so."