Antony to inaugurate warship design hub in Kozhikode - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 3 January 2011

Antony to inaugurate warship design hub in Kozhikode

Defence Minister AK Antony at the foundation stone laying of the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding, Kozhikode

Right: INS Chennai, the 3rd destroyer of the Kolkata class (Project 15A), being launched into the Arabian Sea at Mazagon Dock on 1st April 2010

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 4th Jan 11

For years India’s warship building community has urged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to create the infrastructure needed for making India a major global hub for building warships. Today, as a first step towards this, Defence Minister AK Antony will lay the foundation stone of the National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding (NIRDESH) at Chaliyam, in Kozhikode district of Kerala.

With the Indian Navy expanding rapidly, the workload on the Directorate of Naval Design (DND) has overwhelmed its tiny establishment. With the DND already busy with five major programmes for building surface warships --- for the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier; Project 15A and 15B destroyers; Project 17A frigates; and Project 28 anti-submarine corvettes --- design capacity has become a serious roadblock to further projects.

The shortage of design and construction capacity in defence shipyards had forced the Indian Navy to order warships abroad at inflated prices. Currently three frigates are being built in Russia, while an Italian shipyard is delivering two logistic support vessels to India.

This has occurred despite the demonstrated ability of Indian defence shipyards to build quality warships competently and cheaply. Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai, is completing the INS Kolkata, a 6800-tonne guided missile destroyer, for a cost of Rs 3800 crores ($850 million). In contrast, Spanish shipyard, Navantia, is selling comparable destroyers to the Australian Navy --- the 6250-tonne Hobart class, which Navantia calls the F-100 frigate --- for 11,850 crores ($2.65 billion) each, more than thrice the cost of INS Kolkata.

The need for NIRDESH became even more urgent as warship building capacity has grown, sharply outstripping design capacity. In 2010, the three defence shipyards --- MDL, Mumbai; Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata (GRSE); and Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) --- have been supplemented by a fourth, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL), which the MoD bought from the Ministry of Shipping. There is also Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), a central PSU, which is building the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier for the MoD. Now a new trio of state-of-the-art private sector shipyards --- L&T, Pipavav, and ABG Shipyard --- is also demanding orders for building warships.

“I am extremely happy with the setting up of NIRDESH”, says Nikhil Gandhi, Chairman of Pipavav Shipyard near Bhavnagar, Gujarat. “This will provide us design capability at affordable prices, rather than forcing us to set up expensive facilities, or to look abroad for warship designs. Pipavav welcomes and will support NIRDESH.”

NIRDESH, an autonomous body under the Registration of Societies Act 1860, will function under the MoD’s Department of Defence Production. Set up with a corpus of about Rs 40 crores, NIRDESH was funded by the MoD and the four defence shipyards. Once operative, it is expected to be self-sustaining, charging both public and private sector shipyards for design and consultancy work that it provides to them.

According to the head of one of the defence shipyards, NIRDESH would function as a “national design centre”, bringing together designers from within the country and abroad, in order to take on the challenging tasks of integrating weapons systems from various global suppliers, and propulsion systems. It will also work in the futuristic area of developing advanced hull forms.

It is understood that NIRDESH will have the financial autonomy to pay top dollar to its personnel, retaining them and providing continuity in design and support. In contrast, the naval designers in the DND can be paid only at mandated government rates. Therefore, they tend to move on to more lucrative jobs.

Currently, only three establishments --- IIT Kharagpur, IIT Chennai and the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) --- run courses in naval architecture, graduating about 60 architects each year. The actual requirement is estimated at about 200 architects per year.

While NIRDESH will enhance the number of white-collar naval designers and architects, industry insiders say that the real problem is the acute shortage of skilled blue-collar workers who actually build warships.

Rear Admiral MK Badhwar, who recently retired as the Indian Navy’s chief warship designer, points out, “India’s warship building industry desperately needs a full-scale training establishment that can churn out not just white collar warship designers, but also sufficient numbers of blue collar tradesmen --- welders, platers, electricians, pipe-fitters, crane operators, etc… who are in short supply today.”

In the absence of a MoD initiative to train tradesmen, shipyards are tackling that problem at a local level. The newest defence shipyard, Pipavav, has adopted two local Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), in which the shipyard guarantees employment for certain categories of tradespersons.


  1. Ain't INS Kochi th third one and INS Chennai the second one?

  2. Good Beginning !!! Seems to be promising for growth naval ship industry

  3. An Indian built destroyer at Rs.3800 crores is not cheap.Perhaps there is still scope for bringing down the costs through economies of scale,more indigenisation etc.
    Even then our capability for design and construction of nuclear subs is still very limited.Will NIRDESH contribute to that ?

  4. Great Step for Indian Defence Ship building.

    Let's hope those words I read @NDA-NTT will come true, "To be Secure On Land ,We Must Be Supreme At Sea".

  5. well...better late than never.. :)

  6. My suggestion for the problem of ground workers is to have courses for these things in ITI. This is true, you do not need just designers. You need implementers in bulk amount. I hope GOI will do something for this.

    Does anybody knows any institute or college where you can get such kind of training. Like you have ITI for AC and refrigerator maintainance ?

  7. Dear Ajaiji,

    The Italian shipyard is making only two ships (tankers) instead of the three that you have indicated.

    I bet there could be varied opinions both within the Naval as well as MoD circles - for and against - as regards to genesis of your statement “shortage of design and construction capacity in defence shipyards had forced the Indian Navy to order warships abroad” as I believe that there cannot be only these two fixed or concrete reason for us ordering warships from abroad when you have the capability within this country.

    The setting up of NIRDESH is a step in the right direction and hope that unlike many of the good initiatives of the Government, this institute in years to come does not remain an institute on paper alone as a black hole for exchequer’s fund gulping but rather delivers of what is expected out of it. Only time can say this. But as on now best wishes and kudos to the team of NIRDESH for this efforts.

    Best wishes

  8. Anonymous 10:46:

    INS Kochi is the second of class... and INS Chennai the third.

    Anonymous 15:46:

    You are right, Fincantieri is building just 2 vessels. Thanks for drawing attention to this. I have corrected the article.

  9. Oh please - I do not believe that the Navy does it's detailed design on it's warships. I believe what the navy does is to subcontract the detail design work to private design companies that specialise in these type of work.

  10. Oh yes INS Kalkota as good as the Spanish/Aus this like LCA is as good as the Eurofighter?

  11. Both Anon@10.46 & BROADSWORD@16.05 are wrong: Fincantieri is building only one vessel--INS Shakti--at the moment for the Indian Navy. It is due for delivery by the year's end. In 2007 Fincantieri delivered the ‘Sagar Nidhi’, an oceanographic survey vessel for the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), while INS Deepak arrived in Mumbai on December 31. Thus far, Fincantieri has to date inked a total of five contracts with the GoI since 2004. Of these, three are for building the Sagar Nidhi, INS Deepak and INS Shakti. The other two contracts relate to the IAC.

  12. Hello Col. Shukla,
    Are you on drinks now a days? :)
    Warship design hub is gonna be in Calicut (old name for the Malayalam name for Kozhicode. In English, there is no consonants to make the proper word. But in India we used "zha" to spell the local name like "Kozhikode." Another Indian discovery. So just poor English, anyway).

    This has been second time you messed up with the headlines of your articles (First being the C-10 explosive DRDO "reverse-engineered").

    Please give a little importance to the headlines..
    Thank you.
    A reader of your blog.

  13. Prasun:

    Would be nice if you read more carefully before rebutting. The article does not say that Fincantieri is "building" two logistic support vessels. It says it is "delivering" two...

    That is the correct position.

    Anonymous 11:22:

    I am very much on drinks nowadays. I have one or two almost every evening. Are you suggesting you would like to enforce prohibition in my life?

    Have made the amendment in the heading. I trust you're happy now?

  14. To BROADSWORD: As of December 31, 2010, Fincantieri had only 01 (one) vessel left for delivery, which is INDS Shakti. Would be nice if you read more carefully before rebutting factual comments.

  15. Sir, any updates on IAC? Are going to visit Kochi? It will be a great to see the first pics of our own aircraft carrier in your site.

  16. Prasun:

    Fincantieri will remain in the process of delivering two logistics support vessels until it has completed the delivery.

    But there is no point getting into semantic discussions. If you wish to post a comment anyway, go right ahead and do it. I'll clear it.

  17. I am the same "reader of your Blog."

    Good to see you corrected the heading.

    You wrote: "Are you suggesting you would like to enforce prohibition in my life?"

    Of course, I cannot put a prohibition in your life nor in anybody's life. And I do not want to do that too. It is up to you to decide whether you take drinks or not. But hope you read the warning on the bottle.

    You wrote: "Have made the amendment in the heading. I trust you're happy now?"

    Whether I am happy or not (by making the amendment) is immaterial. I only made a suggestion to correct a mistake in the heading, so that readers such as me would like to read an error-free article. Again, it is up to you to make any changes. If you write good, people will visit and read. If you write crap, I am not sure how many will visit.

    I know you are not being paid nor getting any money for hosting this blog. And I do appreciate you for hosting this blog. Thank You! Nonetheless, pointing a mistake is also a way to improve the blog.

    Hope you understand.

    Thank you.
    The same "reader of your blog"

  18. @Anon 23:45
    It is good to give suggestions for corrections, but not with comments of drinks or drugs.
    Pointing a mistake in a better way, is the correct way. Pointing a mistake with some irrelevant comment is like making fun of the mistake.

    But in anyway, if your fingers are dieing to make a comment to Ajai, please use the email option.

    I hope you get what I mean.
    And please do not distract the objective of the post. This is not an English class.


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