All hopes of salvaging INS Viraat and converting it into a museum faded further on Wednesday, when the ship-breaker at Alang in Gujarat winched the famous aircraft carrier closer to the shore, in preparation for dismantling.
Shree Ram Group, which bought the vessel as scrap, started winching the vessel earlier this week after Mumbai-based Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd failed to procure a “No-objection certificate” from the central government to get it converted into a museum.
“We could not have waited any longer. The company who wanted to buy the vessel from us and turn it into a museum has neither procured an NOC from the government, nor has it made a token payment of any kind,” said Mukesh Patel, chairman of the Shree Ram Group who had demanded Rs 100 crore for reselling the vessel.
The ship-breaker had given time till October 15 to the firm to make a payment and get into a formal agreement for the resale. “A few days ago, a representative of the company contacted us and we told them that we will be pulling the vessel closer to the shore in absence of a formal commitment. The company wanted to know if the vessel can be salvaged from the shore. I told them it is possible, but there would be multiple costs involved,” Patel added. The ship-breaker had sought an NOC from the government because he had bought the ship as scrap and did not want to run in to legal hurdles later.
Between Monday and Wednesday morning this week, the diesel powered winches on plot number nine of the ship-breaker began dragging the vessel closer to the shore, using the mooring lines secured to the front portion of the ship. After being beached at Alang on September 28, INS Viraat has been about 3,000 feet away from the shore and needs to be winched closer to the shore as it is a dead vessel.
“We have winched the vessel closer to the shore. Now it stands at 1,200 feet and we will undertake further winching during the high tide on Diwali. In between, we will prepare the ship to be broken. This includes getting permission from the Gujarat Maritime Board,” said Patel.
Envitech Marine Consultants evinced interest in the aircraft carrier, two days after the Shree Ram Group organised a formal ceremony at Alang ship-breaking yard in Bhavnagar district, bidding farewell to the vessel. Union Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya who was among the dignitaries present at the event had stated that the Modi government could not save the vessel after an expert panel opined that the vessel cannot survive for more than 10-15 years as a museum and will also prone to accidents.
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