Mumbai, December 04: Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command addressed media persons at the annual Press Conference of Navy Week 2018 onboard the Western Fleet's stealth destroyer INS Kochi at Mumbai on Monday. During his interaction, he said that only "dignified activities" would be permitted on board the Indian Navy's decommissioned aircraft carrier Viraat. He added that since its decommissioning, several states have expressed interest in converting the ship into a tourism hub or a museum.
The carrier, built and deployed by the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom in 1959, served the Indian Navy from 1987 till it was formally decommissioned in March, 2017. The Centaur-Class aircraft carrier operated for 56 years under British and Indian flags, earning itself a Guinness World Records mention for being the oldest serving warship. "Proposals have been received from several states, including Maharashtra, to convert Viraat into a tourist destination. We will be permitted only dignified activities there," Vice Admiral Luthra told reporters. India Approves Rs 3,000 Crore For Procurement of Brahmos Missiles and Armoured Recovery Vehicles to be Built in Russia.
Meanwhile, the proposal from Maharashtra had been forwarded to the Defence Ministry. The vice admiral said the ship, in its future avatar, could be a public-private partnership initiative. "It is going to be a Public-Private Partnership (model) which means the state, as well as a private company, is going to be involved. Whether it will be a convention centre or a museum or a tourism destination will depend on the PPP," he said. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba Backs 'Make in India' Campaign; Says, '32 Indigenously Built Ships to be Inducted Soon'.
About the Maharashtra government's proposal for the decommissioned aircraft carrier, Vice Admiral Luthra said, "It is being examined actively at the highest level." On the maintenance cost of the decommissioned aircraft carrier, he said about 225 people have been deployed to take care of the ship, but the Navy did not "do any costing" of it. The Commander-in-Chief, in his opening address, also apprised the members of the media about the initiatives and milestones achieved by the Western Naval Command over the past year including mission-based deployments, exercises with foreign navies, security, safety, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, environmental consciousness and activities connected with the Golden Jubilee of the Western Naval Command.
The ship was commissioned into the Indian Navy on May 12, 1987, and operated Sea Harrier fighter aircraft, Sea King 42B anti-submarine helicopters, Sea King 42C commando carrier helicopters and Chetaks as its main air elements. The aircraft carrier is reputed for having been out at sea for over six years, covering the globe 27 times. It was decommissioned from the Indian Navy on March 06, last year. Last Month, the Maharashtra Government formed a high-power committee headed by Chief Secretary to ensure successful implementation of the project involving the conversion of INS Viraat into museum and Tourism Centre.
The Indian Navy celebrates Navy Day on 04 Dec every year, the date on which during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, naval ships, armed to the teeth, stealthily manoeuvred off Karachi, and unleashed a lethal missile attack that left the port ablaze and destroyed several enemy warships.
(With inputs from PTI)