Mazagon Docks and Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) traces its history to 1769 when the Bombay Council proposed to the East India Company to build a new dock at Mazagon. The dock was built in 1774 and finally taken over as a Public Sector Undertaking by the Indian Government in 1960.
MDL has been the leading shipyard for building multiple platforms for the India Navy. It constructed three Frigates as part of its Project 17 that are already in service. The frigates have been christened as INS Shivalik, Satpura and Sahyadri. The current focus is on Project 17A, that involves construction of seven ultra modern stealth frigates, with four of these being undertaken at MDL while the balance three will be constructed by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE), Kolkata.
Before the stealth frigate construction could have started, MDL required modernisation. As part of the endeavour MDL has added a new wet basin, much larger than its existing one. The new basin can simultaneously hold two destroyers and an equal number of submarines.
Further, a module workshop has been constructed, suitable for integrated construction. The workshop has a retractable roof allowing modules being lifted out to the desired slip ways alongside with a massive crane capable of lifting upto 300 tons. During an interaction with Rear Admiral Shrawat, Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) while visiting the MDL premises in Mumbai, the Admiral remarked, “MDL has been upgraded and modernised to undertake Project 17A. Add to it the processes we have introduced, and it revolutionises shipbuilding in India.”
In fact, integrated construction methodology is new in India and a reputed European company has been brought in to facilitate business processes reengineering, thereby MDL achieving global standards in shipbuilding. The processes differ from legacy methods, in that concurrent progressing of hull construction and outfits can be undertaken leading to savings in time. With the new capability, MDL will be able to bring the construction time down to approximately 60 to 66 months. The CMD also stated that, “Rs 850 crore have been spent on modernisation.” He also confirmed that a similar exercise has been undertaken at the GRSE.
The schedule for construction with the go ahead having been received in 2015 is quite tight. MDL is currently into the two years preparatory period before scheduled construction starts in February, 2017. According to the CMD, “The 1 st ship will be delivered in five and half years, with one ship thereafter, every year.”
Keeping in view the government’s ‘Make in India’ thrust, major efforts have also been undertaken to boost indigenisation. MDL has modified its purchase manual giving purchase preference to higher Indian content while sourcing its requirements from vendors in its logistics chain. Technical self-reliance is also an equally important goal at MDL.
MDL will also serve as lead yard to GRSE for the construction of three of the Project 17A ships. The knowhow provider at GRSE remains the same as for MDL. Between the two shipyards, there is a time lag of one year, with MDL preceding GRSE. The overall delivery schedule has been worked out in consultation with the Navy.
The stealth frigates will have a displacement of about 6,500 tons. Each frigate will require approximately 225 personnel to man, and hold one helicopter on board, primarily for anti submarine warfare role. The frigates will use both diesel and gas, the former while cruising and the latter when in an attack mode. Frigates are normally heavily armed and these frigates are also expected to have a complement of surface to air and surface to surface missiles, close in weapon systems and anti submarine warfare systems.
Frigates are major offensive platforms of a Navy. With the induction of the seven frigates of Project 17 A, Indian Navy will be able to provide greater stability in the Indian Ocean region.
MDL has also been one of those yards that has barely witnessed any labour problem. Over the years its personnel have inculcated a work culture that is both professional and responsible. Given the kind of enthusiasm that’s quite evident as one walks across the MDL premises, Project 17 A should enjoy a smooth sail, with “discipline, design and planning”, being the three fundamental strengths, as Admiral Shrawat conveys.