July 17, 2014 1:32:33 am
A day before the Supreme Court decides the fate of decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, retired Navy officers, who served aboard the vessel, made one last appeal to save it.
Addressing a press conference at the Mumbai Press Club on Wednesday, Vice-Admiral (retd) I C Rao and Captain Lawrence Nathaniel reiterated that the vessel could still be made commercially viable.
INS Vikrant, which played a major role in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation, was converted into a museum in 2012 and maintained by the BMC. However, after the BMC intimated the state government that it could not longer pay for its upkeep, the vessel was placed for auction and purchased by Mumbai-based scrapping firm I B Commercial for Rs 68 crore in March.
Rao said the vessel could still be placed permanently on the coast, south of Sassoon Docks in Colaba. “A large concrete platform can be built on the spot, while the hull undergoes repairs at Hughes Dock. It is not in as bad shape as is feared. Once the platform is ready, the vessel can be grouted there permanently and it can become a popular tourist attraction,” he said.
Rao added that corporate houses could also be roped in to create revenue streams out of the vessel. “There is a functional heliport on the deck of the vessel. If proper safety features are put in place, I am sure that the security threats that INS Shikra, which is located close to the proposed spot, has raised, can be cleared. Once the vessel is positioned, invitations can be sent to the corporate world to make it commercially viable. The rest of the vessel can be used to hold conferences and the museum can thus become self-sustained,” he said.
Captain Nathaniel, who served aboard the vessel between 1962 and 1964 as a sailor, said it was a shame that INS Vikrant was now berthed at Darukhana, which is the graveyard of ships. “When we sailed to Sri Lanka and Iran, more than 10,000 people came to see the vessel. It is a disgrace that Indians can no longer visit the museum,” he said.
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