January 2, 2014

Antony promises to review decision on platform docks

Defence minister A K Antony on Tuesday said he would explore the possibilities for giving the order for landing platform docks (LPDs), which the Navy is planning to acquire, to Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL).

He was speaking after commissioning the fast patrol vessel Abheek built by CSL for the Indian Coast Guard here on Tuesday.

The Navy had decided to acquire four LPDs and the bids were sent to private shipyards Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering and ABG Shipyard.

The decision of the Navy to exclude CSL, which had recently completed the first phase construction of India's first indigenous aircraft carrier, from the tender bids for the LPD had invited criticism from various corners.

However, Antony clarified that the decision to exclude CSL from the tender bids was taken based on the report of an expert committee appointed by the Centre.

The committee which had submitted its report about 17 months ago, had said that since CSL was busy with the work of the indigenous aircraft carrier, it should not be given the LPD order to avoid affecting the delivery schedules of both ships. The report also mentioned that the foreign firm which was selected by CSL as partner had no expertise in the construction of LPDs, Antony said.

"Nobody (from Kerala) objected to the committee report back then. It is only now that many are waking up from their 'Kumbhkarna seva' (deep slumber). The process of selecting bidders for LPD has already advanced significantly by now. Still, I will strive to include CSL in the bidder's list considering that it is a prominent public sector shipbuilding unit in the country with excellent track record," the minister said.

Antony said that Indian shipyards, both in the private and public sector, would together deliver five ships each year for a period of five years.

He said that the crisis affecting the global maritime industry has impacted the shipyards in India. "Even defence shipyards like the Hindustan Shipyard Limited and Goa Shipyard are starving for orders, and finding it difficult to pay salaries. The story of CSL will be similar soon."

"The only shipbuilding orders that are coming now are from the defence ministry. Naturally there is stiff competition to secure them," he said.

Vice Admiral Anurag G Thapliyal, director general of Coast Guard, said Abheek was the 23rd ship commissioned by the Coast Guard this year. The Coast Guard has more than 90 vessels and over 60 aircraft.
- Times of india

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