India is all set to sign an agreement with a South Korean shipyard for building 12 minesweeping ships locally.

Chairman of India’s Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) Rear Admiral (Retired) Shekhar Mital has confirmed the news, saying that the project will cost more than INR 320,000 million. He told the press that GSL would build the Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMVs) in collaboration with Korean Yard Kangnam Corporation under the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ programme.

According to the retired rear admiral, the two companies are in the final stage of concluding the agreement that will be signed in three-four weeks. The GSL chairman stressed that the proposed project would help the Indian Navy fill gaps in its mine warfare capability. The Navy, which currently has only six MCMVs imported from the erstwhile Soviet Union in the late 1970s, needs 24 minesweepers.

Meanwhile, Mital thanked the Narendra Modi government for helping the Goa shipyard to scale up its infrastructure swiftly. He told reporters that the Defence Ministry had allocated INR 4,800 million in December 2015 for expanding the infrastructure so that the shipyard could easily build MCMVs. The shipyard also has the facilities for construction of glass-reinforced plastic hulls that can reduce the ship’s magnetic signature and allows for safer navigation through mined waters.

Minesweepers are used for keeping sea lanes mine-free. Many countries deploy mines mainly to limit the enemy’s ability to use the sea. Mines are dangerous underwater weapons as they can explode either on contact or be activated by pressure, acoustics or magnetic signature. The mine counter-measures force is deployed to detect and destroy minefields near enemy shores to facilitate offensive action. Minesweepers use mine-hunting sonars as a part of mine counter-measures combat management systems. This is a sophisticated equipment that can detonate a variety of mines. The MCMVs use side scan sonar systems to detect bottom mines placed on the seabed or ‘moored’ mines that float at pre-determined depths. These ships deploy Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to detonate mines or render them safe. The ROVs are equipped with modern sensing devices.

Mital said that the construction of the first vessel would begin in April 2018 and deliveries would be completed between April 2021 and April 2026. He revealed that several European firms, including Thales and Saab, would be involved in the project, providing latest mine-hunting solutions.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]