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U.S. Navy's MSC Sends Ship to India for Repairs for the First Time

US Navy repairs ship in India for first time
USNS Charles Drew became the first US Navy vessel to go to an Indian shipyard for repairs (Indian Defence Ministry photo)

Published Aug 8, 2022 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a first-of-its-kind move designed to strengthen the U.S. position with India, the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command sent one of its vessels for maintenance and repairs at an Indian shipyard. While the project itself maybe be smaller in scope, the significance of the U.S. Navy contracting for work in India is serving as a significant diplomatic moment, gaining broad exposure in India and designed to strengthen cooperation between the U.S. and India.

The USNS Charles Drew, one of a class of 14 dry cargo ships in the Military Sealift Command Combat Logistics Force, arrived on August 7 at the L&T (Larsen & Toubro) Kattupalli shipyard in Chennai, India. The vessel is scheduled to spend 11 days at the yard and was greeted by India’s Defence Secretary and senior members of the navy as well as the members of the staff from the U.S. Consul in Chennai.

Terming the event as a red-letter day for the Indian shipbuilding industry and the Indo-US defense relationship, Indian Defence Secretary Dr. 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.”

He pointed out that India has grown its exports and specifically to the United States in recent years as part of a Made in India campaign. The country is also developing its domestic shipbuilding industry. Dr, Kumar highlighted that India today has six major shipyards with revenues of nearly $2 billion.

“This inaugural repair of USNS Charles Drew is a landmark development to be celebrated as a symbol of our strengthened US-India partnership,” said U.S. Consul General in Chennai Judith Ravin said. “In April, at the US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin affirmed their intention to explore utilizing Indian shipyards for repairs on U.S. Navy vessels. “

The USNS Charles Drew is 689 feet long with a displacement of 41,000 tons. Capable of traveling at speeds of up to 20 knots, the ship is manned by a 53-member crew. She can carry over 6,600 tons of dry cargo, over 1,700 tons of refrigerated stores, and 18,000 barrels of cargo fuel. MSC refers to her missions as the “deliver supplies to customer ships at sea.” The class is designed to supply ammunition, food, repair parts, stores, and small quantities of fuel. Two of the vessels are dedicated to the U.S. Marine Corps. The Charles Drew has been operating for MSC in the Pacific since 2011.