By Elton Gomes
A total of 18 months after the Indian Navy decommissioned INS Viraat, the aircraft carrier is set to be converted into a tourist spot.
The Maharashtra government has won the bid to develop the aircraft carrier into a tourist spot in Sindhudurg district on a public-private partnership basis. The cost of the entire project has been estimated to be around Rs 852 crore.
According to the Maharashtra government’s plan, INS Viraat will be grouted – it will be grounded and moored, and sealed to the seabed. The government plans to keep the ship seven nautical miles off the Malvan coast at Nivati rocks in Sindhudurg.
“The MoD (Ministry of Defence) had proposed to gift the ship to any state government that was ready to bear the cost of converting it into a maritime museum. The ministry had made it clear that it will not fund them. Two states, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, had reverted with their proposals. AP was keen on converting it into a hotel-cum-museum but wanted the Centre to share the cost… the proposal was subsequently rejected,” an official said, the Indian Express reported.
What is the Maharashtra government planning
The Devendra Fadnavis cabinet, on Thursday, cleared a proposal to convert Viraat into a commercial business complex. The Maharashtra government plans to build a convention centre, a hotel, a wreck diving facility, and a museum, among other facilities on the ship. The ship could also house a marine training facility.
An official told the Indian Express that, as per the proposal submitted to the MoD, the Maharashtra government plans to construct the museum by laying a concrete foundation in the sea.
An initial detailed project report, which has been made by a consultant, proposes the conversion of the ship into a comprehensive tourism destination. “But, the activities on the ship have not been finalised yet, and the design is subject to change,” an official from the ports department told Hindustan Times. “The luxury hotel and residential accommodation has not been finalised and may be decided based of demand by bidders.”
The official added that any activity planned on the ship will be permitted only if it “maintains the dignity” of the warship.
What had the Maharashtra Tourism department planned
In March 2017, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) proposed to tow the ship into position somewhere in the Konkan and sink it and convert it into an underwater destination. The plan was proposed in light of wreck diving – considered to be a major attraction for scuba divers all over the world. More importantly, over the years, if the plan went through, the ship would turn into a healthy artificial reef and habitat for marine life.
“It seems like a good idea, but we will have to first check if it is financially and technically feasible. There was a similar proposal to turn the INS Vikrant into a museum, but it just lingered on and did not work out, so we want to cautiously take a call on this one. We will vet the proposal, but a final call can only be taken by the chief minister,” an official from the tourism department said, Hindustan Times reported.
Three states show interest in preserving INS Viraat
According to media reports in September, Maharashtra, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh seemed interested in preserving INS Viraat.
Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Western Naval Command Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, told the press that Maharashtra Government officials even paid a visit to the ship. “Maharashtra government has studied the (ship’s final) location and its officials have visited the ship. It will send a report to the Centre. We are expecting a decision soon,” Luthra said, PTI reported.
Luthra further said that Goa and Andhra Pradesh have also shown an interest in preserving the aircraft carrier, which was decommissioned at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in July.
INS Viraat’s journey
In April 1986, the then Congress government made an agreement with the British to acquire HMS Hermes for $63 million. After the new equipment was fitted on the Hermes, it was commissioned as INS Viraat in 1987.
Viraat has been featured in the Guinness Books of Records for being the longest serving warship of the world. It has helped the Indian Navy by clocking in more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft and spent nearly 2,252 days at sea sailing roughly 10,94,215 kilometres. This is equal to the ship spending seven years at sea and travelling the entire globe 27 times.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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