USNS Charles Drew
USNS Charles Drew Image Credit: Twitter/US Navy

New Delhi: Adding a new dimension to the burgeoning India-US strategic partnership, US Navy Ship (USNS) Charles Drew arrived at Kattupalli shipyard in Chennai on Sunday for undertaking repairs and allied services.

According to the Ministry of Defence, this is the first ever repair of a US Navy ship in India. The US Navy had awarded a contract to L&T’s Shipyard at Kattupalli for undertaking maintenance of the ship. The event signifies the capabilities of Indian shipyards in the global ship repairing market. Indian shipyards offer wide-ranging and cost-effective ship repair and maintenance services, using advanced maritime technology platforms, said the Ministry.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Flag Officer Commanding Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Naval Area Rear Admiral S Venkat Raman and other senior officials of the Ministry of Defence visited the shipyard to welcome the vessel. Consul General of US Embassy in Chennai Judith Ravin and Defence Attache at the US Embassy at New Delhi Rear Admiral Michael Baker were also present.

Terming the event as a red-letter day for the Indian shipbuilding industry and the India-US defence relationship, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said, “We are indeed pleased to welcome US Naval Ship USNS Charles Drew to India, for making her voyage ready. India’s initiative also assumes special significance in furthering the strategic partnership between India and the US. It marks the beginning of a new chapter for deeper engagements.”

Kumar described the arrival of USNS Charles Drew for repairs as a sign of maturing Indian shipbuilding industry. “Today, India has six major shipyards with a turnover of nearly USD 2 billion. We are making ships not only for our own requirements. We have our own design house capable of making all kinds of state-of-the-art ships. The country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant is a shining example of the growth of the Indian shipbuilding industry,” he said.

“Under the new innovation ecosystem, vessels capable of undertaking autonomous missions have been built by Goa Shipyard Limited and some of our start-ups. The shipbuilding industry today is not just carrying out conventional things, but is also amalgamating the latest technologies with it,” he added.

The Defence Secretary also asserted that the ties between India and US have been expanding in scale and scope and are based on common values and beliefs of an open, inclusive and rule-based order in Indo-Pacific and the rest of the global common systems. He added that there has been a tremendous amount of traction in the defence industry cooperation over the last couple of years between the two countries.

“Indian defence exports have seen a massive increase in the last four-five years. Exports, which were worth about Rs 1,500 crore in 2015-16, have now grown by 800% to around Rs 13,000 crore. A major destination for Indian exports is the US,” Dr Ajay Kumar said, thanking the US partners for their cooperation and support to the Indian defence industry. He hoped that the defence exports will increase further in the times to come.

Consul General of US Embassy Ms Judith Ravin called it a new leaf in India-US strategic relationship signifying the deepening bonds between the two nations.

The USNS Charles Drew will be at the Kattupalli shipyard for 11 days and undergo repairs in various areas.