Of the several aged vessels that come to the Darukhana ship-breaking yard at the end of their seafaring lives, perhaps no other has been greeted with the same enthusiasm as INS Vikrant. The decommissioned naval warship dominates the skyline and drew nearer to the shore on Thursday afternoon.
Visitors began flocking to Darukhana from far corners of the city ever since the warship entered civilian waters on Wednesday, a month after a private firm, I.B. Commercial purchased it for Rs 68 crore.
Some, like Bharat Chavan , a 54-year-old mechanic from Bhayender, came to catch a glimpse of the ship up close. “I read in the newspapers that the ship would be moved to Darukhana and thought I should come to see her. Civilians rarely get to see Navy vessels this close, so it was an opportunity I did not want to miss,” he said.
Another mechanic, Fateh Ram, who works in Darukhana, said that crowds were larger on Wednesday. “There was hardly any space to stand. Over the next fe days, a lot more people will throng here. INS Vikrant is our nation’s pride,” he said.
Three thick ropes have been suspended in the space between the vessel’s bow and two large generators on shore. Officials from I.B.
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Commercial kept watch from just beyond the shore on Thursday, watched by police officers from a beat chowkey of the Sewri police station. Navy helicopters also conducted aerial sorties once an hour.
Large trenches have been dug int the shore to accommodate more generators to secure once it berthes on land on Thursday. “High tide is forecast at 1.30 pm on Friday. We will then pull in the ship in an-hour-and -a-half,” said an official from I. B. Commercial.
Security guards employed by I. B. Commercial kept curious onlookers at bay Excitement had begun building up in Darukhana ever since the vessel’s purchase. “We knew that it had to come here to be broken down. We were just unsure of the dock. I am sure all of Darukhana will line up for a chance to work on the ship,” said Vinayak Deshpande, a 20-year-old student.
Deshpande’s friend, Mehboob Kasim Vakil (18) expects the vessel to dominate the skyline near his home for at least a year. Pointing to another large ship bring stripped next to Vikrant, he said, “This one has been here for a year now, less than half of the exterior has been broken down. Breaking down Vikrant will take at least two years,” he said.