NEW DELHI — India's state-owned shipyard is to float a global tender in the next two months seeking consultancy to help build two midget submarines for the Indian Navy, according to a source in the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) was nominated this month to be awarded the $400 million deal to build two midgets, and the tender will be formally awarded in the next one month, the MoD source added.
For the Navy's Marine Commando Force, the midgets will transport armament and equipment from the mother craft to attack targets such as ships riding at anchor and coastal installations, according to a Navy official. The subs will also carry out covert surveillance attacks in shallow waters, the official added.

However, domestic shipyards are unhappy over the MoD's decision to award the tender to HSL without competition.

An executive with the privately owned shipyard Larsen &Toubro (L&T) questioned the ministry's move to nominate HSL, "which has no technical know-how or skill to build midgets."

"Now HSL will hunt overseas for technical consultancy to build the midgets. This is not in the spirit of Make in India policy," the L&T executive said. "L&T has already made known its displeasure [about the tender nomination] to MoD through industry associations."

The executive said the midget program should have been put to competition. "HSL lacked orders and was given the midgets order (in 2012). However, since then HSL has got huge orders for fleet support ship as well as has a promise for two landing platform decks," the executive said.

An executive with HSL said the company "was selected to get the midgets tender in 2012 on nomination basis but the award of the tender got delayed because the Indian Navy changed its requirements, which have now been incorporated in the tender likely to be signed this month."

Nitin Mehta, a defense analyst in India, said: "The domestic shipyards are unhappy with the award of the tender to HSL on nomination basis because the Indian Navy needs 10 midgets and there is a possibility now that the order to HSL could be increased in the future."

Commenting on the capability of HSL to build midgets, the Indian Navy official said: "The only capability that HSL has acquired is for refits of EKM class submarines. New design and construction of surface warships' underwater platform is very much different and a different ball game. Thus MoD must realize this project is [a] highly complex platform due to [the] large number of systems and equipment getting accommodated in constraint spaces. This would require special skills of experienced manpower to do layout in confined spaces."

Shyam Kumar Singh, a retired Indian Navy captain said the state-owned shipyard does not have the "requisite technology and skill to make midgets."

"Such technology in any case is expensive," he said. "Only MDL [(Mazagon Dock Limited)] and L&T have proven skills who should have been tasked for this job, and HSL could have been compensated by other orders."