The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Friday signed a contract with Visakhapatnam-based state-owned Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) for acquisition of first of its kind five Fleet Support Ships (FSS) of 44,000 tonnes for the Indian Navy at an overall cost of approximately ₹19,000 crore.

The FSS — employed for replenishing ships at sea with fuel, water, ammunition and stores — will enable the Indian naval fleet on missions to operate for prolonged periods without returning to harbour, said the MoD while announcing the deal. Navy sources said the delivery of the first FSS will start from four years after the contract is signed with the HSL. And the remaining will be commissioned into the Navy after a gap of ten months each.

The Navy envisages eight FSS over next ten years to augment its fleet of tankers. Of the four existing tankers with each of them having displacement tonnage of 30,000, two are deployed in East Coast and the remaining in West Coast, said Navy officials. It’s aimed at improving operational capabilities of ships especially in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which China is trying to dominate.

INS Jyoti, carrying Pennant No A 58, is expected to get decommissioned later this decade, having been commissioned into the Navy on July 20, 1996. Similarly, INS Aditya was commissioned on April 23, 2000, while INS Deepak and INS Shakti were inducted into Navy in 2011 within a gap of nine months.

“These ships would enhance the strategic reach and mobility of the Fleet. The induction of these ships will significantly enhance the blue water capability of the Indian Navy. The ships can also be deployed for evacuation of people and human assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations,” the MoD said.

Made in India

The FSS of 44,000 tonnes will be the first-of-its kind to be built in India by an Indian shipyard. A tanker of the proposed class can support multiple fleets, from aircraft carrier to other warships, since it has the capacity to onboard 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of fuel, and water, according to Navy officials. Sources in HSL said the shipyard has the capacity to take up this huge contract but the yard is also being modernised to take up simultaneous work as well.

It is one the biggest maritime contract after INS Vikrant project which was billed at ₹20,000 crore. “The construction of these ships will provide a new dimension to the Indian shipbuilding Industry and encourage active participation of associated industries, including MSMEs. With majority of the equipment and systems being sourced from indigenous manufacturers, these vessels will be a proud flag bearer of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in consonance with the ‘Make in India’ initiatives of the Government,” the Ministry elaborated.

The unlisted maritime government of India enterprise is into shipbuilding, ship repairs, submarine construction and refits as well as design and construction of sophisticated offshore and onshore structures. Over the years, HSL said it has constructed 200 vessels, refitted five submarines and repaired 2,000 vessels of various types.