Stepping up cooperation between the two coast guards, India today formally handed over ‘Varuna,’ an offshore patrol vessel to Sri Lanka at a colourful ceremony held at the naval base here. Director General of Sri Lankan Coast Guard Rear Admiral Samantha Wimalathunge received the ship from Director General of the Indian Coast Guard Rajendra Singh in the presence of Rear Admiral S S Ranasinghe, Chief of Staff, Sri Lanka Navy, a defence release here said. Varuna, synonymous with Lord Varuna has remained the ‘Alma Mater’ for Indian Coast Guard officers for over three decades and has glorious accomplishments to her credit. It would be the first Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) to be inducted into Sri Lanka Coast Guard and has been allocated pennant number SLCG-60 by the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, it said. Prior to the ship’s departure to the island nation, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard crew will be imparted familiarisation and ‘On Job Training’ by ICG Workup team on ship handling, bridge navigation, engine room controls and machinery. In his address, Singh highlighted the significance of mutually beneficial relations shared between both the countries.
He also fondly remembered the contributions of the erstwhile training ship and wished good luck to the Sri Lankan crew in all future endeavours, the release said. The Director General of Sri Lanka Coast Guard conveyed deep appreciation of Sri Lanka government to the Government of India for the transfer. The ship was decommissioned with traditional honours on August 23 to facilitate the handing over. It will be commanded by Captain (ASW) Neville Amara Ubayasiri.
The handing over of the erstwhile ICG OPV to the Government of Sri Lanka for training and surveillance purposes is part of India’s continuing efforts for cementing the historical and cultural ties between the two countries, the release added. India has earlier handed over two OPVs of the Indian Coast Guard, Varaha in 2006 and Vigraha in 2008. Handing over ships, patrol vessels, interceptor boats to littoral states in the Indian Ocean like the Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius and helping them in capacity-building has been a vital element of the Indian diplomacy.