NEW DELHI: The Navy will hire a foreign firm to salvage its missile frigate INS Betwa, which
tipped over on Monday killing two sailors in the Mumbai dockyard, since the force does not have the expertise to salvage any warship. For this, representatives of two foreign firms have approached the Navy for an assessment to salvage the 4,000-tonne missile frigate.
According to a Naval official, Monday’s incident was the first case of a warship tipping over completely while undocking, in the history of naval annals. The Naval Headquarters has set up a Board of Inquiry, headed by Rear Admiral Deepak Bali, flag-officer Offshore Defence Advisory Group, to ascertain the
cause of the accident and fix responsibility.
Meanwhile, ruling out apprehensions that the frigate may be written off due to the damage incurred, Navy officials said, “We will salvage the ship and make it sea worthy. The ship will be battle ready in the next one-and-a-half years.” INS Betwa is a front line Brahmaputra-class frigate and is armed with Uran anti-ship missiles, Barak 1 surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes.
The Rs 600 crore frigate commissioned in the Navy was dry-docked in Cruiser Craving Docks, Mumbai, in April for a two-year medium refit and was scheduled to be seaworthy in 2018. The mishap occurred when Betwa was ready for sea trials on Monday and slipped over dock blocks. The ship’s foremast, the tallest projection on the deck, crashed on the ground alongside and the ship is now tilted at 90 degrees.
Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba took stock of the situation in Mumbai and met the family of deceased sailors N K Rai, chief engine room artificer (CH ERA), with a service of more than 10 years, and Ashutosh Pandey, an acting lead mechanical engineer (Ag LME).
Denying apprehensions that many sophisticated equipment and guns on the ship were damaged beyond repair, officials said most of the equipment was removed when it came for medium refit in April.
“Since the ship will not sail for the next two years, most of the sophisticated equipment, including sensors and electronic warfare systems, are taken off and cannibalised on to other operational ships for continuous use. Once the refitted ship is ready for sailing, the equipment is re-installed,” they said. At present, 25 per cent of the frigate is submerged in water, they added.
They said malfunction of dock block system or error in calculating weight distribution besides mistake in releasing water in the dock to let the ship float could be the reasons behind the mishap.
Explaining the system of taking the ship to sea from the dry dock after refit, they said water is released through heavy duty pumps into the dock to let the ship float. Till then, the ship is resting on blocks built according to the length of the surface and weight of the ship. The blocks are made of 80 per cent
steel and the rest is soft wood so that the ship can literally “sit” on them without damaging its hull.
In the last four years, the Navy has lost three major warships at the dock. INS Vindhyagiri was lost in 2012, INS Sindhurakshak in 2013 and INS Betwa in 2016.