Dec 5, 2013
MUMBAI: The Centre and experts from the Indian Navy have shortlisted three foreign marine salvage operating companies for recovering the submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, which sunk at the naval dockyard on August 14 following a series of explosions in its forward portions. Out of the three, the final company will be chosen in the next few days and the cost for the salvage operation is estimated at around Rs 500 crore.
A defence source said according to the report submitted by the salvage companies, around 40 days will be required to lift the sunken sub out of the water.
Five salvage operating companies, including an Indian firm, applied for the job and each of them sent trained divers into the sea to ascertain possible methods of salvaging the 16-year-old vessel that exploded, killing 18 crew members on board.
Based on the reports, three of the companies have so far been shortlisted; the two others' methods were not found technically too sound. "All three have qualified technically. In the next few days, the government will choose one of them, based on the salvage costs they have quoted. The government deals with the operation cost. I am neither aware of it nor will it be right on my part to comment on it," said Vice-Admiral (Flag Officer Commanding-In-Chief, Western Naval Command) Shekar Sinha during a press meet onboard INS Viraat on Tuesday, a day before the Navy Day on December 4.
A defence source said India bought INS Sindhurakshak in 1997 for $113 million and recently got it refitted for $156 million or around Rs 800 crore.
"The salvage operation for the sunken submarine is estimated to cost around Rs 500 crore. It will also take a while to complete the entire exercise as 90% of the ordnance on the vessel is still intact. Among the five salvage companies, Svitzer Ocean Towage, Titan & Gol Consortium, SMIT Salvage, Resolve Salvage & Fire and Arihant Ship Breakers, the government is now having discussions with three of the shortlisted firms. Based on their technical reports, they will finalize the exact amount," the source said. "Normal gas-cutters cannot be used to open up the vessel as it can trigger blasts. So, equipment using the water-jet technology will be required and that can cost $8 million. The technology's operators, who charge $2,000 a day, will also have to be called from abroad."
According to Sinha, the final report in the INS Sindhurakshak explosion is yet to be prepared. "The final report can be prepared only after the Board of Inquiry Committee enters the sub after it is lifted. The team will then conduct the chemical analysis to ascertain the cause for the explosion. It is too early to jump to the conclusion. Also, the fleet of 16 submarines is going to undergo tests to check if all the vessels are in a proper condition," he said. After the explosion, divers could not go anywhere close to the submarine for three-four days. "Due to high temperature around the sunken submarine, the divers were unable to enter initially. Before sending them into the vessel, the divers were trained blind-folded inside asimilar submarine," he said.