Around 2.30 pm on Monday, seven boats carrying iron ropes set sail some 3,000 feet from the Alang shore to secure the 22,600-tonne INS Viraat. The Guinness record holder for being the longest serving warship in the world was received at the Alang shipbreaking yard, where it will settle in a space between an ageing oil rig and a container, to be dismantled.
Union Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who was present at the shipyard for the ceremony titled “Thank You Viraat”, said the central government had been prepared to spend Rs 500-odd crore for turning the naval vessel into a museum, but the vessel’s hull had aged and could not survive beyond 10-15 years. “It was our aim to convert it into a museum. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji had asked me to study the vessel. We had long discussions with my ministry and the Navy and a committee was formed to see if it could be converted into a museum,” he said.
He noted that INS Viraat had completed 30 years in the Navy and had earlier served the British navy as HMS Hermes in 1959-84. “When the report of the expert committee came, it stated that materials used inside the ship will not last long. It cannot survive beyond 10-15 years… After the expert opinion, we were compelled and we had to come here to say thank you to Viraat,” said Mandaviya at the ceremony.
“INS Viraat, which served the country for several years and was retired in 2017, has reached its final destination,” said the minister about the aircraft carrier, which was brought from mid-sea and beached 3,000 feet from the coast during high tide.
Rear Admiral Puruvir Das, Flag Officer Commanding, Gujarat Naval Area was also present at the event, at the plot belonging to Shree Ram Group of Industries—the firm that bought the vessel for Rs 38.54 crore at an auction.
On arrival, teams from the customs department, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) boarded and inspected the vessel.
“There will be another round of inspection by Gujarat Maritime Board and GPCB before the breaking can begin,” an official from Shree Ram Group said.
Over the next one month, the ship will be slowly brought closer to the beach using diesel-powered winches during high tides. Officials said that once the vessel reaches the shore sometime next month, the breaking will begin.
In July 2019, the Centre had informed Parliament of the decision to scrap INS Viraat. The decision was taken after the vessel could not be handed over to any state government because of lack of “self-sustaining financially complete” proposal to preserve the vessel.
Rear Admiral Das said, “It is a very momentous day for all of us in the white uniform, because there are thousands of sailors who have served on INS Viraat. We have got a lot of expertise and experience which we are currently implementing on INS Vikramaditya and we will be ready for the next aircraft carrier INS Vikrant which is being built at Kochi…”
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