Please could you introduce yourself?
I am Satinder Pal Singh Ahuja, Chairman of Machinery Sales Corporation, Mumbai (usually known as SS). We are a long established family business that has been working in support of the Indian Armed Forces and Ministry of Defence for long enough to have seen some of our serving officer contacts grow from raw recruit to Head of Service positions, particularly in the Indian Coastguard.
How long have you been working with Griffon Hoverwork?
We formally partnered with Griffon Hoverwork at the same time as Griffon Hoverwork formed in 2009 but we had been providing support to the original 6 x 8000TD hovercraft that were built in the partnership between Griffon Hovercraft and Garden Reach Shipyard, Kolkata before that.
Which hovercraft products have you helped to enter the Indian market?
The Indian Coastguard has a specialised long range patrol version of the 8000TD. Having already provided support as mentioned we worked closely with the Griffon Hoverwork team to win the 12 x 8000TD contract in 2010. The craft were built in Southampton, we spent a great deal of time liaising with the customer during the build and represented Griffon Hovework at the commissioning ceremony of each of the craft. However, we specialise in service support and pride ourselves in being the most experience provider of support to Griffon Hoverwork products in the world. It was not straight forward, we committed to providing on-site support at all 6 of the Coastguard bases and that meant we needed to work with the team from both Griffon Hoverwork and Hendy to build the expertise in our team. Today it is a well oiled machine that ensures the customer always has an nearby expert to turn to – the effort and commitment of resources is reflected in the spare parts and support sales for the Indian fleet.
Why is a hovercraft solution suited to India?
India has 7,517km of coastline, much of it is shelving or extremely tidal with long inlets that can only be accessed by hovercraft. In addition the length of coastline means that there are stretches that are not covered by standing Coastguard bases so the unannounced arrival of a Coastguard hovercraft patrol on the beach keeps the illegal fishermen, smugglers and other miscreants on their toes.
What is your proudest moment working with Griffon?
Certainly being the guest of honour at the commissioning ceremony of the new craft during the 2010 to 2014 project.
What other roles could hovercraft assist with and how could this help solve challenges in India?
In addition to the coastline, the Army is dealing with an insurgency problem in North East India (Assam). They have a standing requirement for 60 hovercraft (44 of 200TD size for patrol and 16 of 8100TD size for troop carrying) to operate in the huge rivers of the region as well as some additional coastal / riverine requirements and on the Andaman Islands. They tendered for the requirement in 2016 and only Griffon Hoverwork succeeded in achieving their technical requirement but bureaucratic challenge stopped the acquisition proceeding. The requirement still stands and we were pleased to see it highlighted in the equipment programme just issued by the Ministry of Defence. Beyond the military there are ferry and logistic roles on the rivers and inlets of India – this is what stimulated the four yards that are pitching Griffon Hoverwork technology for the current 12 x 8000TD tender for the Indian Coastguard and Army requirement to compete so hard – they all want to be the accepted indigenous producer of hovercraft in India.
What do you see for the future in India and with hovercraft in general?
You will all know from the news that India is having to work extremely hard during the COVID pandemic, for example only 15 to 20% of the Coastguard officers are at work in the Headquarters in Delhi. This has slowed the processing of the current tender down significantly and quite apart from that issue, we all pray that the impact of the pandemic can be overcome soon. As we emerge there is a strong future for hovercraft in India. We are proud to be working with the world experts and intend to be at the forefront of supporting all the future Indian requirements.