The Scorpene submarine project that is already three years behind schedule has received another setback after a massive breach and flooding in the Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) where the vessels are being constructed. Sources said the dry dock of the shipbuilding yard developed a breach, causing a massive flooding that submerged key components that were being manufactured. A detailed assessment is awaited but initial estimates by the Navy indicate that the project could be delayed by twoâ€”three months. While efforts are being made to clear the dock and restore the working area, sea water is still accumulated, hampering work. Several components of the submarine were submerged by the intake of sea water, including sections of the hull that have already been fabricated. â€œIt is not a major setback. There could be a slight delay but in the long run we can make up on time lost,â€ an official familiar with the incident said. This is the latest in a series of setbacks for the submarine project that was inked in 2005 after a record Rs 18,000 crore deal with French firm DCNS to manufacture six vessels in India. According to the contract, the first submarine was to be delivered by December 2012, followed by one submarine a year so that the entire fleet would be inducted by 2017. However, the project underwent a major delay due to initial teething problems in absorbing the technology and creating of infrastructure at MDL. DCNS also came under flak by the CAG that said in a report that it was given undue favour and concession for the contract by the government. The first submarine is now scheduled to be delivered only by the second half of 2015, resulting in a three-year delay in the project. While the quantum of delay due to the flooding of the dry dock is yet to be finalised, any more delays in the project will come as bad news for the Navy that is already struggling with a depleted submarine fleet. The effective submarine strength has drastically come down to only 14 boats after a series of boats were retired after achieving the end of their service life. However, the effective strength at any given time is estimated to be around nine due to maintenance and upgrade issues. The Navy has already initiated a process to procure six new next generation submarines that will be equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) to give them longer endurance but a tender is yet to be issued.