By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, June 25:
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Karwar Naval Base in Karnataka to review the progress of infrastructure development under ‘Project Seabird’ and inspected the ongoing works, on Thursday.
Accompanied by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, the Defence Minister undertook an aerial survey of the project area before arriving at the INS Kadamba Heli Pad. The visiting dignitaries were received by Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Naval Command Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, and Flag Officer Commanding Karnataka Naval Area, Rear Admiral Mahesh Singh.
Singh inspected the ongoing works at the Naval Base and received on-site briefings including capability demonstration at the Shiplift Tower. He also reviewed the marine infrastructure of Project Seabird Phase II-A. He visited the newly-constructed Sailors Married Accommodation and also interacted with Project Seabird contractors, engineers and officers, sailors, and civilians of Karwar Naval Base.
In his address, Singh expressed satisfaction at the progress of ‘Project Seabird’ and hoped that after the completion of the project, it would become Asia’s largest Naval base which would further bolster the operational readiness of the Armed Forces. He complimented the Indian Navy, which is making an invaluable contribution towards maritime and national security, besides strengthening India’s position at the strategic as well as diplomatic and commercial levels. The Navy is successfully discharging its duties of protecting the country, through its coastline of over 7,500 km, nearly 1,300 islands, and an exclusive economic zone of 2.5 million sq km and is playing a crucial role in the development of the world, he said.
Singh said that the Navy is continuously strengthening India’s relations with its maritime neighbours with a focus on ‘SAGAR’ (Security & Growth for All in Region) envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He lauded the efforts of the Indian Navy for providing humanitarian assistance to not just the country, but the world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “From rescuing stranded Indian nationals from affected countries to ferrying in critical equipment, including oxygen cylinders, from abroad, it has worked tirelessly in the fight against COVID-19. He also praised the role of the Indian Navy during the Goa Liberation War of 1961 and the 1971 Indo-Pak war among others.
He also highlighted some of the Government reforms to strengthen the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces, including the appointment of Chief of Defence Staff and setting up of the Department of Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defence. He also dwelt upon initiatives taken by the Government to promote self-reliance in defence manufacturing. They include allocation of 64 percent of modernization funds under capital acquisition budget for 2021-22 for domestic procurement, changes in Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020, and an increase in FDI limit in the defence sector to 74 percent.
Singh said more than two-thirds of the Navy’s modernization budget was spent on indigenous procurement in the last five financial years. Under ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat’, out of the 48 ships and submarines, 46 are being inducted through indigenous construction. He described the indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant as a shining example of the Navy’s self-reliance efforts and said that the commissioning of Vikrant will be a momentous occasion, as it is coinciding with the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.
ICG rescues crew from sinking vessel
In the meanwhile, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) rescued nine crew from sinking vessel Ganga-I off Cinque Island on Wednesday. The ICG had received a distress alert from Tug Ganga-I in approx. 30 nm South East of Port Blair. It had left Port Blair on June 22, 2021, with a barge, loaded with construction material, undertow. The vessel was scheduled to arrive at Hutbay on Thursday. However, the crew observed heavy flooding in the engine room and activated distress to alert the authorities. The crew abandoned the Tug and took shelter onboard a barge for safety.
The ICG launched a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation in coordination with Port Management Board (PMB), Port Blair in which ICG ships and PMB Tug ‘Ocean Marvel’ were deployed for the response. ICG ship C-146 and ICG ship C-412 on routine deployment were also diverted for assistance. ICG ship Durgabai Deshmukh and PMB Tug ‘Ocean Marvel’ sailed from Port Blair with a damage control team and de-flooding equipment for immediate assistance. The crew of the distressed vessel was rescued. However, one crew sustained a leg injury and was successfully evacuated and brought to Port Blair. He was shifted to GB Pant hospital for medical management. Distress vessel sank despite towing efforts.