Mazagon Docks and Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL) is undoubtedly the leading submarine builder in our country. In addition, MDL is into shipbuilding in a big way with eight ships of two different projects. The Shipyard has also undertaken a major modernisation programme to be abreast with the latest ship building technologies. Captain DK Sharma of bharatshakti.in interacted with Rear Admiral Anil K Saxena, (Retd), Director, Shipbuilding, MDL to get the milestones and the future plans.
Capt DK Sharma (DKS): You are one of the biggest shipbuilders we have in the country: take us on a brief walk across MDL’s milestones during the last 1-2 years of your tenure.
Rear Admiral Anil K Saxena, Director Shipbuilding, MDL (Dir MDL): At present MDL is undertaking construction of eight surface ships (four ships of Project 15B and four of Project 17A). In addition, Medium Refit of INS Trishul and Medium refit and Life Certification of a submarine are also in progress. Last two years have been quite eventful. Some of the important events in last two years are:
- Commencement of production of third ship of P17A by the Controller of Warship Production & Acquisition in January 2019.
- Launching of Imphal (3rd ship of P15B) by the Chief of Naval Staff on 20 April 2019.
- Launching of Vela (4th Submarine of P75) by Secretary (DP) on 06 May 2019.
- Keel laying of 2nd ship of P17A by Secretary (DP) on 07 May 2019.
- Commissioning of two 25T Bollard Tugs by Secretary (DP) on 07 May 2019.
- Launching of Nilgiri (1st ship of Project 17A) by Honourable Raksha Mantri on 28 September 2019.
- Laying of foundation stone of Nhava Yard by Secretary (DP) on 07 May 2019.
- Commissioning of 2nd Submarine Khanderi by RM on 28 September 2019.
- Commissioning of Heritage Gallery by Raksha Mantri on 28 September 2019.
In addition to the above milestone events, MDL has set up an innovation centre and filed application for more than 50 products for IPR. MDL Is also undertaking development of three AI enabled products in collaboration with IIT Madras. In Last two years, MDL has also introduced concepts of integrated construction and parallel construction in shipbuilding to compress build periods.
DKS: Could you please tell us, which are the major projects that your yard is handling now/ships under construction etc?
Dir MDL: MDL is currently building four destroyers of the Visakhapatnam Class, Four Frigates of the Nilgiri Class and also four submarines of the Scorpene class. As mentioned earlier, MDL is also undertaking the Mid Life Refit and Life Certification (MRLC) of a submarine and Medium Refit of INS Trishul. In case of P17A, we are fully leveraging our modernized infrastructure and resorting to Integrated Construction (IC) methodology which is being followed by advanced shipbuilding nations. Specialised Know-How has also been procured from an international shipyard to assist the shipyard for adopting and customising the IC methodology.
DKS: Will you be able to meet your deadlines in terms of timely deliveries? We have heard that the third of the Kalvari Class P75 submarine is to be commissioned soon in early 2020?
Dir MDL: In P15B and P17A there have been some delay related to finalization and procurement of some critical equipment. In the case of P15B, we have worked out revised delivery dates of these ships considering the availability of equipment and these dates have been approved by the Government. We are confident that the revised dates will be met. With regard to P-75, the third boat is undergoing trials and is being readied for commissioning.
DKS: A strategic partnership model for the construction of six (6) submarines of P75I has been approved by the Govt. Going by the reports in the media, MDL has a fair chance to be a winner of the contract. Could you kindly explain what makes the MDL a front runner and why?
Dir MDL: This project gains utmost importance for the nation from the strategic and tactical perspectives. MDL is fully poised to participate in the program. In fact MDL has already developed niche capabilities for indigenous construction of conventional submarines with quality that matches global standards. Our workforce is highly skilled and trained in the nuances of submarine construction. MDL executives are also highly qualified, trained and have imbibed the requisite skill sets for handling a complex platform such as a submarine. The learning curve on the series of six boats of the Scorpene class affords the yard a very unique position to take-up P75I. We have already responded to the RFI floated by Navy and are hoping for a positive outcome. Our infrastructure for submarine construction is capable of handling the P75I build program.
DKS: What about the area of exports. How has it been so far and what orders do you have at this point in time?
Dir MDL: MDL is making concerted efforts in the international markets to bag export orders. Stiff competition, the general recession impacting the global new build scenario in both defence and commercial sectors are some of the challenges. MDL is considering platforms, services, products and infrastructure development as its export portfolio. Although as on date our export order book has been very insignificant we hope to definitely achieve some orders very shortly.
DKS: What are your expansion plans both in terms of requirements of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard and also shipping assets for our merchant marine?
Dir MDL: We have recently augmented our marine infrastructure with a wet basin, 300MT Goliath Crane straddling across two slipways/Module Shop and two impounded wet basins. The Submarine Section Assembly (SSA) workshop has also been created exclusively for submarines. We have approximately forty acres of land in Nhava. This affords a very good business potential and we are in the process of developing it. As such we have now an infrastructure capable of simultaneously handling ten (10) warships and eleven (11) submarines. The facility can also handle repairs and new builds for vessels in the merchant marine sector.
DKS: What is the system you have in place for supporting MSMEs and indigenization? How do you nurture them, ensure quality deliverables, and what stage do you incorporate them in your projects?
Dir MDL: We have a robust system for supporting MSMEs and indigenization. We regularly conduct vendors’ meet for registration of vendors and provide them handholding in development of products. We have a clearly laid out policy for procurement from MSMEs in keeping with the extant Government guidelines. Our experience with MSMEs has been by and large encouraging. However, it needs to be mentioned that MSMEs also would need to step-up the quality of the products on offer to match international standards. We wholeheartedly embrace the make-in-India policy of the GoI and as the premier shipyard in the country will facilitate in possible fronts to achieve our long cherished dream of technological self-reliance. We have indigenized some of the ship borne equipment such as Bridge windows, Ship installed Chemical Agent Detection System, MCT Glands, Sonar Dome etc.
DKS: MDL has achieved a significant growth in its turnover in the past few years. What are the new system in place? What steps did you take to improve productivity? What are the other measures being put in place to continue with the run?
Dir MDL: The shipyard has taken specific steps to leverage technology for improving productivity. SAP has been implemented across the spectrum of the company’s activities, A state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Lab has been established that is obviating a lot of physical activity and rework onboard during the construction phase. The concept of Product Data Management and Product life Cycle Management introduced in P17A is serving the project as a repository of the entire product and life cycle data. We have established a number of quality circles across the various functional domains and they are doing an excellent job. In fact they have of late brought a lot of accolades both in the national and international fora. An innovation cell has been set-up and innovation champions have been identified across the various verticals. Ideas that emanate from any individual are considered on merits for implementation. A number of innovative ideas for improvement of productivity have already been implemented. R&D and Indigenisation efforts are also on. We are already beginning to see the fruits of these initiatives.
DKS: How do you organize specialized training of your work force (skill development)?
Dir MDL: The shipyard is making every effort to train the personnel both white collared and blue collared to keep abreast with the changes taking place in the shipbuilding and submarine construction domains. Through this retention of skill-sets, preservation of knowledge bank is being realised to a great extent. A major portion of our training happens on-the-job. A significant paradigm shift took place when we decided to resort to the Integrated Construction methodology for building of warships which will result in reduction of the build periods. For this our executives and operatives were trained by an European Shipyard. For specialised areas like welding we have tie-ups with institutes like Welding Research Institute, Tiruchirapalli and for areas like Ergonomics we are leveraging the domain expertise of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. Apart from the technical aspects, continuous training is also imparted to middle and senior level executives for developing managerial competence and negotiation skills. We have capability development programs for executives to build their technical and managerial competencies for higher position.
DKS: What are you showcasing in DefExpo 2020 and what are your expectations from this Defence Exhibition?
Dir MDL: MDL is showcasing its capability of building ships & submarines. We are also showcasing three Artificial Intelligence enabled products being developed in collaboration with IIT Madras. In addition, some of the products manufactured by MDL are also being displayed. We are also planning to sign some MOUs with Indian and foreign equipment manufacturers for export purposes. Our focus is on collaborating with vendors in UP Corridor.