KOCHI : Bolstered by its capability to roll out India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), the Cochin Shipyard is getting ready to commission a ₹1,800-crore dry dock spread over 15 acres on its campus at Thevara, by 2024, with the capability to construct even bigger vessels, including bigger aircraft carriers.
Announcing this on Thursday, Madhu S. Nair, Chairman and Managing Director of the shipyard, said the 300 m x 60 m dry dock would be ideal to construct yet another aircraft carrier, especially since the Indian Navy was keen on having a total of three carriers.
In addition, a ₹942-crore international ship repair facility on 42 acres leased from the Cochin Port Trust (CPT), as part of the shipyard’s extension, which could berth six medium-sized vessels simultaneously, was expected to be commissioned by December 2023, he said, after inaugurating a meet-the-press series titled ‘Take off Kerala’, at the Ernakulam Press Club.
“The shipyard employs a total of 9,000 people, including 1,800 permanent employees, while the upcoming unit will create employment for another 3,000. Altogether, 77% of the work is over, while the shipyard will take up the rest of the work from the contracting firm due to its delay in project execution. This will lead to CSL’s capacity for ship-repair increasing from 100 to 150 ships every year. A maritime park too will be set up here, like the one in Singapore,” Mr. Nair said.
Going back in time on the chronology of the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier’s (IAC) rollout from the yard, he said its work order was signed in 2004, while steel cutting was done in 2005. Russia’s reluctance to provide steel caused about two years of delay, and works began on the vessel in 2007 after India broke Russia’s monopoly in the sector and developed warship-grade high-strength steel indigenously.
The vessel, which cost ₹3 billion, was thus completed in 15 years, instead of 13 years as originally envisaged. The English built such vessels in 10 years, but they came with a ₹5.50 billion price tag. The shipyard was now confident of building a second carrier in seven to eight years, while the delivery of its first hydrogen-fuel vessel was expected by March-April 2023, Mr. Nair said.
The yard, which already got orders to build ships for the Indian Navy, was aiming for more such orders, while also targeting the export market. Faced with increasing competition, a scheme called CSL-Strategic Advanced Solutions (C-SAS) had been set rolling. “This will help us penetrate markets in Europe and other areas better, especially since they lay much emphasis on wind and alternative-fuel vessels. With this, we hope to double our turnover in another five years,” Mr Nair said.
He narrated how the yard which began with an initial investment of ₹120 crore in 1972, was plagued by agitations and technological woes during its infancy. So much so that it recorded a minus ₹150 crore net worth in the early 1990s and was even referred to BIFR. Its fortunes changed by 1993 when it began an SOS campaign, following which financial restructuring was initiated and the yard began to rake in profits. Dedicated team work from the early 2000s ushered in confidence in the workforce and work orders began to come from West East and Western Europe.