Indian navy needs 24 minesweepers to clear mines laid by enemy warships and submarines. These mines can not only harm ships but they can virtually blockade sea ports and lanes. At present Indian Navy does not have the number, in case of emergency it will not be able to protect even one port.
Keeping this in mind a deal was signed with a South Korean company called Kangnam Corporation to buy 8 such ships. Plan was to import two ships from foreign vendors and then get the rest 6 built with technology transfer at Goa Shipyards. Unfortunately MoD has found out that this company used middlemen in the deal. As readers might be aware that using middlemen is construed as mal-practice by the MoD thus the deal may have to be scrapped.
In 2012 a BJP MP had written to the then defense minister about this deal being crooked and asked him to look into the matter. Among the other bidders for the minesweepers for the Indian Navy was the Italian firm Intermarine which was beaten by the South Korean firm’s bid. In fact, the other bidder went to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against the selection of Kanganam Corporation. However, the defence ministry and the Indian Navy explained to the CVC that the selection of the South Korean firm was made since they were the lowest bidder.
It is also learnt that Defense Ministry has en-cashed the bank guarantee given by the South Korean Firm. The case has been sent to Attorney General for his views.
Western Naval Command which has only one such warship left in its inventory has been forced to find novel ways of using other ships to carry out these dangerous tasks. they now rely on the portable, ‘clip-on’ side scanners which can be mounted on any of the other ships to perform mine sweeping tasks. “They are good but they are alternate measures. Every ship has a task to do and by making substitutes, there is always an area that you are neglecting,” said an officer. He added, “Today, almost every procurement in our country stands delayed. Minesweeper ships are just one of them.” The last of these minesweepers were inducted in the late 80s. In the two decades which have gone by, there has been little thinking on replacing these ships.