Part 1: Public defence shipyards bag 85-95% of warship orders without tendering - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Saturday 10 August 2019

Part 1: Public defence shipyards bag 85-95% of warship orders without tendering

Ficci asks Rajnath Singh for level playing field for private shipyards (Photo: Mazagon Docks' modular infrastructure, built at public expense)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Aug 19

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has written a strongly-worded note to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, asking the ministry of defence (MoD) to end the practice of “nominating” defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) shipyards to build warships for the navy and coast guard.

“Nomination” involves placing orders for warships on chosen public sector shipyards, without competitive tendering. Ficci’s note asks for a level playing field for private shipyards by permitting them to participate in all warship tenders. 

Private defence shipyards are in dire straits, with two of them – Bharati and ABG Shipyards – facing foreclosure; and sparse order books for the others, despite L&T’s Rs 3,500 crore construction of a Greenfield shipyard at Katupalli, Tamil Nadu, and Reliance Naval and Engineering’s Rs 2,000 crore purchase of Pipavav Shipyard.

Ficci has presented figures to highlight that, over the last two decades, the four DPSU shipyards – Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL) – along with Kerala state’s Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), garnered all the high-value orders through “nomination”.

Between 2000-2010, PSU yards were “nominated” for over 95 per cent by value of all warship orders, amounting to Rs 76,794 crore. Only 4.9 per cent of orders were competitively tendered. Of those, PSU yards won 1.9 per cent (worth Rs 1,500 crore) while private yards won the remaining three per cent, worth Rs 2,446 crore.

The MoD counters that most warship orders are competitively tendered. It says PSU yards were “nominated” to build only 56 ships, while the private sector was allowed to participate in the tendering for 90 ships – 62 per cent of the total numbers.

While that is so, the 38 per cent of orders that were “nominated” to PSU yards included all the high-value warships, adding up to 95 per cent of the monetary value. The 62 per cent where the private sector competed involved small, low-value auxiliary vessels.

Ficci further contends that, with PSU yards having pocketed 95 per cent of orders through “nomination”, they possessed ample resources to cross-subsidise their bids in the remaining orders that were competitively tendered. Consequently, private shipyards had to resort to “gross underbidding just to remain in business,” says Ficci.

In November 2010, then defence minister AK Antony had pledged: “From January 2011onwards, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will not give any nominations to the defence shipyards for naval projects and they will have to compete with the private shipyards for the tenders.”

Yet, little changed in practice. Between 2011-19, PSU shipyards were “nominated” for 85 per cent by value of shipbuilding contracts, constituting Rs 146,261 crore. The private sector participated in just 15 per cent of the tenders, worth Rs 25,758 crore.

With huge contracts already in hand, says Ficci, “The PSUs began resorting to rampant cross subsidization to win 10.4 per cent programmes, leaving a meagre 4.6 per cent for the private sector.”

Once again, absolute figures are misleading. Between 2011-19, contracts to build 73 warships were awarded after competitive bidding, while 69 warships were “nominated” to public sector yards. However, the latter included all the lucrative warship contracts, leaving private shipyards to compete only in orders for low-value, auxiliary vessels.

Ficci has also raised another point with operational implications: The large volume of “nominated” orders placed on PSU shipyards has created such a huge order backlog that the navy and coast guard will have to wait many years for delivery of warships. 

Last week Business Standard reported (July 30, Garden Reach builds 100th warship; order book full for next 20 years) that GRSE would take 20 years to discharge its order book of Rs 27,500 crore, at its current annual turnover of Rs 1,386 crore.

According to MoD figures, the combined value of production in 2017-18 of MDL, GRSE, GSL and HSL added up to just Rs 7,600 crore. Yet they were “nominated” during the last two decades for warship orders worth Rs 223,055 crore.

“With this rate of execution, gross delays are inevitable in liquidation of existing order book thus affecting warship induction plans and force readiness levels of the Indian Navy,” said Ficci.

Citing a report that the Prime Minister’s Office has mandated that all future warship contracts will be competitively bid, Ficci has requested that no new orders should be “nominated” to PSU shipyards. Further, on-going “nominated” procurements in which contracts have not yet been awarded must be re-categorized and re-bid, with private shipyards participating. 

As a key enabler for private shipbuilding, Ficci has requested that the Strategic Partnership (SP) procurement model be fast-tracked for Project 75-I, which involves constructing six conventional submarines for the navy. That would require the MoD to choose an Indian private shipyard to build the six submarines in India in technology partnership with a global “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM). 

Ficci has cautioned against allowing DPSU yards into SP projects, which the MoD is considering. Instead the MoD is urged to stick with the “original intent of SP model being reserved for participation by the private sector only.” 

The original SP concept that the Dhirendra Singh Committee (2015) and VK Aatrey Task Force (2016) envisioned has the primary objective of developing private sector capabilities in defence manufacturing. However, the SP policy that the MoD eventually drew up for the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 (DPP-2016), left the door open for DPSUs to compete in SP category procurements.

Ficci argues that private shipbuilders cannot compete on level terms with PSU yards. The latter have benefited from hundreds of crores of government funds spent on their modernisation and on technology transferred over earlier “nominated” contracts.

In case [the Project 75-I procurement on the SP model cannot be restricted to the private sector], the competing DPSU bids must be loaded for the cross-subsidy arbitrage in the form of free access to government funded assets and past repeated ToTs (transfer of technology),” says Ficci.

(Part 2: Private shipyards: L&T shows way to on-time delivery)


  1. It is difficult to understand which private sector shipyards are there in India now. L&T Shipbuilding is getting the RFPs / Tenders. As on date there is only one private shipyard, L&T that may qualify to execute shipbuilding orders. Whether the yard is operating profitably is a different matter. And, one should not forget that Halul Offshore cancelled their order midway due to inordinate delays!

    ABG Shipyard is already under liquidation and given the speed at which the liquidation progresses it would take anywhere between 5 to 10 years before somebody buy the Yard's assets. Again, if there is a buyer(s), will it again be operated as a Shipyard is not known.

    Bharati Defence (originally Bharati Shipyard) is also under liquidation. But there are no buyers as of now. It is important to note that Bharati Defence had earlier won one of the prestigious contracts for constructing a DRDO vessel. Their inability to do so resulted in cancellation of the contract and the company landed up in NCLT. It is also important to note that the second time around, CSL bagged the order and not L&T. What does FICCI have to say about this delay of more than 5 years? Probably GSL or CSL would have delivered albeit with a delay of one or two years.

    Reliance Naval and engineering is yet to deliver the first of the five OPVs that were ordered in 2011. Similarly the Coast Guard Cadet Training Ship is being repeatedly delayed. Despite all this, RNEL has been given the contract for the 14 CG FPVs. The yard is declaring losses every quarter. Q1 2019 loss is 370 Cr and the same has been happening for many quarters before. Despite this MoD has qualified RNEL to receive the RFP for NGMVs. Wonder what more FICCI wants.

    Which private shipyard is FICCI talking about? The remaining yards are capable of constructing auxiliary vessels and they are doing so. Unless, FICCI is also making a case (for the Govt) to ensure that RNEL is included in the Govt's scheme of things and also tweak the bid evaluation process to favour L&T and RNEL.

    Why is everybody conveniently forgetting the fact that the Govt has not opened the Commercial Bids for the LPDs? Only L&T and RNEL are in the race for this 3 billion dollar project. Both companies were called for bid opening last Jul and were sent back. How come FICCI does not take this into account?

  2. NSR says ---

    Thorough article highlighting the issues with Indian procurement system and Public and Private companies...

    L&T builds nuclear submarines and its and many other private companies yards are free and begging for contracts...
    Why did GoI give $2.1 billions contract to Turkey which hates India and regularly lambasts it on fictitious issues that are none of its concern...

    I think Public and Private should be about 50:50 until further notice or all Public becomes Private or Semi-Private...

    India will be in big trouble it keeps following outdated policies...

  3. Ajaiji, read ur article on south china... you portray hindus in such a bad light, govt playing with soldiers life? shame on you, i am so disappointed after following you for years. all this despite ur currupt attitude after getting paid by boeing... shame on you, i thought you would improve.... shame shame on you. dont publish this comment, just read and try to be a better indian


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last