Terming it a “historic occasion” for the country, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday flagged off ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’, a circumnavigation expedition by an all-woman Indian Navy crew, from INS Mandovi jetty in Goa.
The crew, led by Lt Commander Vartika Joshi and comprising Lt Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P Swathi and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta, will circumnavigate in five legs, with stopovers at four ports in Australia, New Zealand, Falklands and South Africa. They are sailing on the INSV Tarini, a 55-ft vessel built by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd. They are scheduled to return on April 2018.
“This is not an occasion which can happen once in five years, once in ten years. This is a historic day for India. A historic day which will be marked in navigation history globally. Our women are going to stand out for doing something which most navies haven’t even thought of,” Sitharaman said.
“Just 8 days after my swearing in as Raksha Mantri, this (all women expedition) is not really something which can happen frequently. For me to come and to flag off an all-woman crew doing a circumnavigation of the globe is something I can’t describe in words and I am indeed honoured,” she added.
Expressing her gratitude towards her predecessor and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, Sitharaman said he “has been a very inspiring political mentor”.
The project is considered essential towards promoting ocean sailing activities in the Navy while depicting the government’s thrust on “Nari Shakti”, read a statement from the ministry.
As part of their training for the circumnavigation exercise, the crew has sailed approximately 20,000 nautical miles onboard INSV Mhadei and INSV Tarini. They have also tested waters with two expeditions to Mauritius and Cape Town.