The European countries dominated the ship building industry for centuries together. The shift of monopoly started with growth of the Japanese ship building industry and it has been in the leading positions since 1970. Their core products are oil tankers, bulk carriers and container ships. South Korea started to emerge as a global leader in ship building since about 2003. Today the top three players are South Korea, China and Japan and these three countries together hold 90% of the present ship building orders.
India has a 8000 km long coastline, 27 shipyards and around 200 ports under its jurisdiction. This is indicative of the possibility of how huge the development in Ship Building sector can be. However, we have not been able to utilise even part of the potential available. The Indian ship building industry today remains at a very low global position, accounting for only 1% of the global ship building order book. Having a population of atleast 1.27 billion, with 65% below 35 years, India’s contribution to ship exports is only 1% of the world ship production. Why is a population with youth on its side not able to do better?
We are at present in the forefront in case of many technologies like software, space, nuclear etc. However, the Ship Building Industry of India fails to receive the kind of attention it deserves; given the tremendous potential this industry has for employment generation and contribution to GDP.
The government has announced a 100% FDI and plans to set up international ship building yards on the east and west coasts. But we stand far behind the leading nations in our focus towards boosting R&D work, Transfer of Technology, Foreign collaboration and the likes in this sector. So how can we grab opportunities and grow the Indian Ship Building Industry ?
Role of Educational Institutes in Skill Development
The degree or diploma courses offered today by the educational institutions are generic and not industry specific. It is not possible to directly employ this pool in shipyards or design organisations. The practice in the three countries who are in the fore front in ship building today; is just the opposite. Educational institutions and the Industry must have interaction. When educational institutions and educational experts have industry knowledge and vice versa; the resultant courses would be most productive and useful to the industry.
Today the youth is shifting from traditional degrees and looking at different exposures. If Institutes can take the initiative and finalise courses in consultation with the industry as well as design organisations, they could be looking at newer areas of skill development.
Experts from the field should be included in the education council who give final shape to the syllabus so that it is meaningful to the industry and provides ready to use workforce. The syllabus should fully cover the theoretical and practical training requirements of the industry. This way the industry would have a great talent pool and students would find themselves doing a more employable course than a general degree or diploma.
There is a dearth of trained manpower at the Technician, Supervisor and Engineers level. The majority of workers start in the industry as unskilled helping hands and learning from mistakes eventually make it as hull fabricators, piping experts, electricians, welders and outfitters. The technicians are the back bone of the ship building industry. The speed of production and quality of job fully depend on the technician’s skills and training.
It would be surprising to note that today there are no tailor made courses in India for training Technicians approved by Govt / State government or a University for the ship building industry. Even neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia etc have structured courses for technicians. Also, these days it has become mandatory for the Indian work force seeking employment overseas to pass a course approved by the government of their country or University.
A professional training for technicians in these categories is a must if ships are to be built correctly to the required speed, international standard and quality. Therefore, Govt organisations and Universities should approve courses intended for training Ship fitters, Welders, Pipe fitters and Electricians when approached by educational institutions.
With our present government laying so much of emphasis on Skills and Training, it is a huge opportunity for Educational Institutions to design and offer such value added courses. Rendering these courses could open job opportunities not just for those completing the course, but also to the institutes, universities, agencies and people imparting such course and training.
Role of Research & Development
South Korea’s ascent in the global Ship Building industry is the result of serious government support and continuous effort at innovation and technology. With R&D investment growing to 2.6% compared to 1.9% in Japan, South Korea today maintains a superior technological edge over its competitors. Through R&D work and resultant innovation it can today develop high tech, high value- added and very fuel efficient vessels.
There are several Govt organisations in South Korea involved in ship building- related research and innovation. This increase in qualification and skills of the work force along with the development of schools and specialised university courses has undoubtedly contributed to higher labour productivity for them. Thus, inspite of the recession, they still have orders for Cruise ships, L.N.G carriers and Rigs.
It is high time that R&D organisations be developed for the Indian ship building industry. This is only possible with foreign investment or participation and transfer of technology. R&D organisations should develop Design organisation first and after setting up data cell, library etc; with foreign participation and transfer of technology, should then grow into fully developed R&D organisation.
Interested organisations could offer positions to Indians who are working abroad and trying to relocate to India. This pool of people having direct and relevant experience in the latest areas of ship building could prove to be a critical resource for this industry.
Developing Indigenous Technology
Make in India – as far as the Indian ship building industry is concerned, this is not just a slogan but a tremendously significant and important milestone to be achieved. It is extremely important today to develop equivalent equipments, software and technology indigenously so that these are made available to the ship building industry much cheaper than currently available.
CNC machine – Used in Hindustan Shipyard Ltd
CNC machine – China Model
Today in India a CNC machine or a ship building software cost in lakhs and crores. Small shipyards cannot afford to spend so much money in infrastructure development. That is why you will find in many shipyards the oldest technology in marking, cutting etc are still being practiced. If indigenously developed; machines and softwares would cost far lesser and more shipyards would be able to afford good and reliable technology.
ERP packages for ship yards, CNC machines, design software packages are some areas where indigenous development is possible.
Host of Opportunities
In India recently many ship owners have refused to accept ships delivered late, whereby many yards have run into losses. A pool of skilled labour and strong Sub-contractor teams can not only help in on-time delivery but also in reducing costs. Indigenously developed softwares and machines are also time saving and cost benefitting factors. R&D and Innovation too help on the same lines.
This is an urgent requirement of the Industry and Educational institutes, Software companies etc., should look at this as an opportunity to diversify and build products suitable to support the Indian Ship Building industry.
The above coupled with government support in terms of Financial support to Shipyards facing acute financial problems, export –related financing, Export Credit Insurance, Export Credit Guarantee etc should certainly help and save the Indian Ship Building industry from sinking.