Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) was in the national limelight recently when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated ₹4,000-crore worth infrastructure projects in Kochi. He expressed confidence that the port city in Kerala would soon become South Asia’s largest ship-repair centre. With the addition of a new dry dock and international ship repair facility at a cost of around ₹2,800 crore, the public sector unit is raring to achieve new highs.

Madhu S Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, CSL, says opportunities abound in the shipbuilding market, given the growing demand globally. “We are inspired by the PM’s speech during his recent visit, which is a major impetus for CSL and India’s shipbuilding infrastructure. We are not expecting any immediate outcome after the PM’s statement. But we believe it would help us pick up further orders,” he says.

Madhu S Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, Cochin Shipyard Ltd

Madhu S Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, Cochin Shipyard Ltd

The shipbuilding sector is set for greater growth primarily due to the challenges faced by ageing fleets the world over in meeting the new regulatory requirements, thus accelerating the demand for fleet replacements.

India commands less than one per cent of the $140-billion global shipbuilding market. “However, going by the order intake over the past 2-3 years at CSL and other yards in the country, we could be looking at much better numbers in the coming years,” Nair says.

In the area of ship repair, an estimated $20-billion global market, India’s share is about one per cent. CSL’s share in the Indian ship repair market is about 50 per cent. The yard’s new international ship repair facility adds about 25 per cent capacity, he says.

Vision 2030

The recent expansion at CSL is in line with the central government’s Maritime India Vision 2030 to position India among the world’s top 10 shipbuilding and ship repair destinations by 2030. It also aligns with the recently announced ‘Amrit Kaal Maritime Vision 2047’ initiatives, which include expansion of port infrastructure and maritime trade, and promotion of sustainable practices, he says.

The new dry dock at CSL is 310 m long; the international ship repair facility is equipped to hoist vessels weighing up to 6,000 tonnes. The large capacity will not only buttress Kochi’s prowess in shipbuilding and repairs but also facilitate the development of a business ecosystem in the region that encompasses micro, small and medium enterprises, as well as ancillary facilities. Larger vessels like aircraft carriers and LNG carriers can be accommodated, thereby cutting India’s dependence on foreign nations for their construction and repair.

The yard has built India’s first hydrogen fuel cell ferry, which was recently launched virtually by Modi. It is undergoing trials. The new indigenous technology vessel has been developed by CSL in collaboration with Indian technology partners and would be propelled by an indigenous fuel cell. Globally several countries are working on similar pilot vessels for technology demonstration, Nair explains.

Hydrogen is considered one of the cleanest fuels for achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. The government has announced the ‘green vessel transition’ programme to advance efforts in this direction and the CSL is hopeful of rolling out eco-friendly vessels in various riverine and/or coastal cities as part of this initiative, he says.

Defence works

CSL’s units in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Port Blair have helped spread ship repair services on both the east and west coast of India. The units offer maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) services to domestic, foreign and defence vessels, generating more than ₹200 crore turnover until the third quarter of financial year 2023-24.

Regarding the shipyard’s work on new projects for the Indian Navy, Nair says eight anti-submarine warfare shallow watercrafts (ASW SWC), worth about ₹6,300 crore, are under various stages of construction.

Another six next-generation missile vessels (NGMV), worth about ₹9,800 crore, are in the design and equipment ordering stage.

Rating agency Crisil reported that CSL had achieved sales of ₹1,488 crore during the first half of FY24 and is set to reach ₹3,200-3,400 crore for the full year. The scale of operations is expected to sustain over the medium term on the back of capacity expansion, a healthy order book, and timely execution.