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GAIL (India), under a petroleum ministry directive, has decided to buy a third of the LNG ships it plans to acquire to ferry the fuel from the US to India, from Indian shipbuilders. Considering that the PSU, whose massive LNG imports from the US would start in 2017, has lined up investments to the tune of $7.6 billion for hiring the required specialised vessels, the move would give a big boost to the Indian shipbuilding industry.
Domestic players such as L&T and Pipavav are among the obvious beneficiaries of the decision, which is in line with the Modi government's thrust on the domestic manufacturing sector. Although some analysts are doubtful about the feasibility of Indian ship makers meeting such huge demand given their lack of experience in the areas — guarantee for performance of LNG ships for a 20-year period will be part of the contracts — the government, sources said, is of the view that the challenge would force Indian ship makers to shape up.
The ministry wrote to the GAIL (India) board which met here on July 7: “(The) Board (may) take cognizance of the provisions contained in the National Manufacturing Policy and in the 12th Plan document of the Planning Commission regarding promotion of indigenous manufacturing in India.” Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan told FE, “someday (large and sophisticated) shipbuilding has to start in India.”
A senior GAIL official told FE that the company board has decided to go-ahead with ministry's direction and would soon float the tenders accordingly. “The tender may specify the exact time lines for delivery of vessels, Indian shipyards need to be given more time, as they first need to upgrade the manufacturing facilities,” the official added.
GAIL (India), as reported by FE earlier, had drawn up plans to hire a fleet of sophisticated LNG ships to ferry gas from the US to India for 20 years from 2017. The firm had tied up 5.8 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG imports from the US starting 2017.
The PSU wants to charter ‘new build’ ships to transport gas from the US. Step-in right (to GAIL) in the ownership of LNG ships would only be possible for new build ships. Since fuel and other charges are to the charterer's account, GAIL is looking at chartering fuel-efficient ships.
GAIL is considering taking up equity stakes of up to 10% in the ships with a seat at the