Kochi: State-owned Cochin Shipyard Ltd. is set to become the first Indian company to build a ship for conducting seismic surveys in undersea oil exploration.
The shipbuilder has started converting the Norwegian fishing vessel Pavlovsk into a seismic survey ship, after it won a 150-day contract from a Norwegian exploration firm.
“With oil exploration going deeper into the sea, there is a need for sophisticated diesel-propelled vessels that can go deeper to find oil and gas reserves,” said M. Jitendran, chairman and managing director of Cochin Shipyard. “Cochin Shipyard is the first in the country to enter this area.”
As the search for new sources of oil and natural gas intensifies, exploration companies have increased the demand for seismic survey ships.
India’s biggest explorer, Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd., is looking at constructing support service vessels and Cochin Shipyard has bid for this, Jitendran said. The shipyard is expecting another overseas contract for converting a ship into a seismic survey vessel, he added, but didn’t elaborate.
Seismic survey ships are fitted with equipment to detect large-scale geological features of the seabed to explore the possibility of oil and natural gas availability.
Cochin Shipyard expects to tie up with global consultants for the technology, he added.
As for other operations, Jitendran said Cochin Shipyard would start work on an air defence carrier for the Indian Navy, the first to be built in India, in 2010. The vessel would be ready to sail two years later.
The company’s turnover in fiscal 2007-08 was Rs840 crore, with shipbuilding accounting for Rs600 crore and ship-repairing contributing the rest. Its turnover in the previous year was Rs720 crore, of which shipbuilding contributed Rs478 crore. With the yard equipping itself to build high-value ships, the company expects to increase its turnover to Rs1,000 crore by next year.
Cochin Shipyard delivered seven ships last year and expects to complete work on another eight by March 2009.
The yard is also looking at winning contracts from the navy for converting vessels into anti-submarine warships.
On the proposal to build a new shipyard at Cochin port, Jitendran said the port has instead mooted setting up a third dry dock and a small ship division, for which an initial public offering has been proposed. The dockyard, at an investment of more than Rs800 crore, would increase the shipyard’s capacity to handle repairs for vessels of up to 1,80,000 dead weight tonnage, or DWT. Currently, it can handle ships of up to 1,25,000 DWT.
Cochin Shipyard, which is operating at 20% more than its capacity, has to expand considering the work being undertaken, Jitendran said. The shipyard has an order book for 25 vessels from across the world, and is unable to take more orders because of capacity constraints, he said.
With work on seismic survey vessels and the air defence carrier, orders for the construction of small ships, a proposal to build at least two oil rigs a year, and regular ship-repair works, the yard can achieve turnover of Rs2,500 crore by 2015, Jitendran said.