Exploring India’s 75-Year Shipbuilding Heritage

Credit: Frank Eiffert/Unsplash

March 14, 1948, has registered itself in golden letters in the annals of the history of Visakhapatnam and India. The first contemporary steamer, the SS Jala Usha, was launched from the slipway of the Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) on this day in 1937, kicking off a period of industrial burgeoning for independent India, as reported by The Hindu,

Historical announcement

“The Indian shipbuilding industry won’t suffer and will continue at all costs. You may be sure that the government is seriously interested in fostering this business,” as the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared when SS Jala Usha was introduced on this day.

Industrialist Walchand Hirachand founded the HSL, which at the time was a division of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd and was known as Scindia Shipyard.

“During the Mahatma Gandhi-led Swadeshi Movement, two businessmen from the former Bombay—Walchand Hirachand and Narottam Morarjee—wanted to enter the difficult shipping business by forming a company and, according to old records, they realised that the shipping industry could only grow when it is supported by the shipbuilding industry,” says Edward Paul, a history chronicler of Visakhapatnam.

Their initial choices were Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Bombay (now Mumbai), but Walchand ultimately decided on Visakhapatnam because of its inner harbour.

Initially, the business bought 300 acres for the township and 55 acres for the shipyard. On June 21, 1941, Rajendra Prasad, the Indian National Congress president at the time and eventually the nation’s first free president, laid the cornerstone for the shipyard.

Mr. Paul claimed that Walchand’s action was a defiance of the planned suspension of shipbuilding in India in order to protect their own shipbuilders at home.

Jala Usha

Jala Usha’s development began in 1946 with the intention of creating an 8,000-ton cargo ship. Jawaharlal Nehru was also responsible for the ship’s naming.

The shipyard’s engineers and officers encountered a problem on the eve of the launching ceremony when they were unable to smoothly remove the ship from the slipway and did not have enough grease to do so. To secure the rail’s freedom of movement, one employee proposed piling up tonnes of ripe bananas on the track and the slipway. Between the sliding ways and ground ways, a substantial layer of a mixture of tallow, soft soap, and bananas was applied prior to launch. 30 thousand bananas were utilised for this.

On October 26, 1948, the ship was delivered to Scindia Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. The ship’s overall dimensions were 415 feet long, 52 feet wide, 25 feet deep when completely loaded, 11 knots per hour, 2600 horsepower steam engine, and 8,179 tonnes of deadweight.

No looking back

The shipyard, which had experienced numerous ups and downs, was nationalised in 1961 and given the new name Hindustan Shipyard Limited. The Ministry of Shipping of the Union was given control over it. However, in 2010, it was given to the Union Ministry of Defense.

More than 200 ships have been built and delivered by the HSL since its founding, and it has repaired about 2,000 ships, including major refits for Indian Navy submarines.

Along with commercial vessels, the HSL has also produced a number of naval ships, such as the cutting-edge INS Dhruv, which is operated by the Indian Navy in conjunction with the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) and the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO).

Prior to this, Cmde Hemanth Khatri, the chairman and managing director of HSL, had stated that the shipyard had received several orders from the Indian Navy, including a couple of DSVs (Diving Support Vessels), and that significant expansions and orders were on the horizon.

The HSL recorded a profit of 51 crores and the highest-ever turnover in the previous fiscal year of 750 crores.


Did you subscribe to our newsletter?

It’s free! Click here to subscribe!

Source: The Hindu


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.