Around 30 per cent dismantling work of India’s decommissioned aircraft carrier ‘Viraat’ has been completed and the entire vessel would be dismantled in nine months, a Gujarat-based ship breaker has said. Mukesh Patel, Chairman of the Shree Ram Group at Alang in Bhavnagar district which bought Viraat at an auction in July last year for Rs 38.54 crore, said the firm began the dismantling process in December.
The world’s longest serving warship was decommissioned by the Indian Navy four years ago. It is being dismantled with the help of around 300 trained workers at one of the plots owned by ship breaking firm, Patel said. “We started the dismantling process in December last year and hope to finish the task in the next eight to nine months. We are following the global norms on eco-friendly ship breaking,” he said.
Viraat had reached the Alang ship breaking yard from Mumbai in September. The centaur-class aircraft carrier was in service with the Indian Navy for 29 years before being decommissioned in March 2017. There was a campaign on social media to save the warship and convert it into a maritime heritage museum but nothing came out of it. The Centre in July 2019 informed the Parliament that the decision to scrap Viraat was taken after due consultation with the Indian Navy.
In a last-ditch effort, Mumbai-based Envitech Marine Consultants had approached Patel to acquire the ship for converting it into a museum, for which Patel had sought Rs 100 crore and an NOC from the Central government for the resale. “I was ready to sell the ship for converting it into a museum and even delayed the dismantling for about two months.
But that company could not procure the NOC from the Centre, which is mandatory in such deals,” said Patel. At present, the ship is anchored around 300 metres off the shore and is being cut into pieces using gas cutters and heavy duty cranes. After a significant portion is cut, it will be pulled ashore next month for further dismantling, he said.
“The ski-jump was cut first when dismantling process began. To maintain balance and keep the ship afloat, we then cut apart the back portion and removed some metal from the middle. Reduction in weight will help pulling it ashore,” he said.
There is no clear estimate about how much metal would be salvaged from the ship, Patel said. “All the memorabilia and parts like the steering wheel were removed by the Navy before the ship was handed over to us. Though the engine was there, propellers andshaft were removed before we received the possession, which is a standard procedure,” he said. Viraat is the second aircraft carrier to be dismantled in India. In 2014, Vikrant was dismantled in Mumbai.