Vice Admiral (retd.) P.C. Bhasin, an expert on India’s military maritime scene and a prominent speaker at SMM India, Mumbai from 4th to 6th April, discusses India as a shipbuilding nation and the importance of the country’s Navy for the sector:
“It is true that we are lagging behind China, South Korea and Japan in terms of output, especially with regard to larger ships such as bulk carriers.” Mr Bhasin, who is Chairman of the Defence Council of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, said. Building large ships such as tanker or container vessels is a field where the subcontinent is not at eye level with the big three shipbuilding countries as yet, he contended, saying this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
“Because of the glut in the market, it will not be economically sensible for us to build these huge carriers in our facilities. It will be much cheaper to have them built abroad,” the retired Vice Admiral and former Chief of Material of the Indian Navy explained. Mr Bhasin is in charge of preparing the subject matter concept for the Public Private Partnership Summit which will be part of SMM India (5th April). The industry fair is an international subsidiary of SMM, the leading international maritime trade fair hamburg, and one of the foremost maritime industry events on the subcontinent. It will take place from 4th to 6th April at the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre (Hall V), Mumbai.
According to Mr Bhasin, the global recession hit the Indian maritime sector especially hard just as it was beginning to benefit from massive investments. Yet, the Indian government is upholding its goal of growing the global market share of Indian shipyards from the current one per cent to five per cent by 2020.
There are about 30 shipyards in India today. The three largest public-sector shipbuilding operations are Hindustan Shipyard, Cochin Shipyard and Alcock Ashdown. In the private sector, ABG Shipyard, Bharati Shipyard and Pipavav Shipbuilding are the top three. Both the government and the private sector are investing heavily in new shipbuilding facilities and the expansion of existing ones to enable them to build larger vessels.
In addition, the Indian government has recently introduced a new support programme whereby each newly built ship receives a subsidy of 15% of its sales value. Ship outfitting equipment can now be imported duty-free, which attracts international suppliers to the Indian shipbuilding market. The nation’s private shipyards intend to invest US$4.3 bn. while the public-sector investment plans have a volume of US$1.18 bn. The workforce of the shipbuilding industry is expected to grow five-fold, from its present 500,000 to 2.5 million by 2017.
Orders from Navy and Coast Guard are key
In the longer term, India wants to position itself in the market for larger ships, as well. But for the time being, its shipbuilding industry focuses on mid-sized multipurpose and dry bulk vessels for short-sea and raw materials shipping, as well as on smaller, specialised ships such as tugs and offshore supply vessels. Naval vessels figure prominently in the orderbooks of Indian shipbuilders. “The orders from the navy and the coastguard are very important to both the private and the public sector,” Mr Bhasin emphasised. The Indian navy’s three shipyards build smaller military vessels, and Mazagon Dock near Mumbai has been working on a series of six submarines of the French Scorpène class which it is building under licence.
Naval shipbuilding will be a featured topic at SMM India in April, as well. The international subsidiary of SMM, the leading international maritime trade fair hamburg, will open on 4th April in conjunction with National Maritime Week, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. A top item on the agenda for day two of the biggest maritime industry fair on the subcontinent will be the Public Private Partnership Summit – SMM India.
This conference will provide high-level technical experts and representatives of the Indian navy with a great opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge and to network with peers and customers. “There is no denying that SMM India 2013 is an excellent maritime interaction forum,” said Mr Bhasin. “I am definitely looking forward to witnessing new technologies for faster ships, easier maintenance and faster shipbuilding. Furthermore, SMM India 2013 will be a great platform for building new business contacts,” the retired Vice Admiral added.