Irked by multiple ‘minor’ incidents, Navy orders probe & makes senior officers face the music. My report.


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Article as appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on January 26, 2014
Article as appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on January 26, 2014

The Indian Navy has decided to act against its own in the cases of multiple mishaps which have occurred in the past one month. Towards the same, two senior officers have been relieved of the command of their ships – both frigates and thus frontline warships. Not just that, the navy has also decided to order a Board Of Inquiry (BoI) into the episode of the Kilo-class submarine, the INS Sindhughosh, which had temporarily hit the ground.

Last week, the Defence Minister AK Antony too had sought a report from the navy on these incidents.

“The Talwar had hit a fishing vessel off the coast of Maharashtra. He has thus, based on what was found was relieved of the command of his ship. However the case of INS Betwa, which reported a crack in its sonar dome, is different. He had completed his tenure and was due for a transfer anyway,” said a source. It was added, “The Sindhughosh inquiry intends to find out just why a hazardous situation arose around the submarine.”

Information accessed however stated that in the afternoon of January 17, the Commanding Officer (CO) of the submarine, INS Sindhughosh sent a signal to his superiors reporting, “Zero depth below the keel” – an obvious indicator that the boat’s bottom was on the ground. Thankfully, there was hardly any damage as submarines are designed towards ‘sitting’ on the bottom of the oceans. “A three member Board of Inquiry, led by an officer of the rank of a Captain has been announced on January 18,” informed a source.

Informed sources pointed to the fact that the there were constraints on the navy given the ageing platforms on one side, increasing duration and frequency of deployment and ailing infrastructure like inside the Mumbai Naval Dockyard.

INCIDENTS WHICH HAVE PLAGUED THE NAVY SINCE THE NAVY DAY OF 2031 

December 4, 2013:
 Fire was reported in the engine room of the minesweeper INS Konkan while the ship was being repaired. Naval sources however stated that among other reasons, one was the presence of unskilled labourers who were allowed to work on the ship while it was in Vizag. It was informed that the ship is now operational.

December 23, 2013:
 Frontline frigate INS Talwar collided with a fishing trawler off the Maharashtra coast, an incident in which the the frigate did not suffer any significant damage.

Last week of December, 2013: A shell from the Coast Guard ship Sangram landed inside the premises of the Indian Navy in Mumbai when the ship was clearing its gun upon its return into the harbour.

January 4, 2014: INS Betwa, an indigenously built frigate reported a crack in its sonar dome – the bottom-most part of the ship. It was not clear the cause of this incident however the navy has launched an inquiry into it and has dry-docked the ship for investigation.

January 17, 2014:
 INS Sindhughosh, a Kilo-class submarine of the navy, operating out of Mumbai had a near near-miss when the tide suddenly receded and the ship touched the ground. However, the ship was secured with the help of tugs and ropes and no damage was reported. The ship sailed out subsequently.

January 20, 2014:
 INS Vipul, a missile boat from the Killer Missile Squadron, which had only recently returned from a Normal Refit (NR) inside the Mumbai Naval Dockyard, was detected with a hole in its pillar compartment while it was on an operational deployment off Mumbai.

What the veterans have to say? 

Vice Admiral (retd) RP Suthan, former Vice Chief of the Naval Staff

“I would attribute many of these instances to short cuts being deployed by many in the force. It is high time that people realise the need to adhere to laid down procedures. I must however also sate that ours is an operational navy and minor issues will always be there.”

Vice Admiral (retd) Pradeep Chauhan, former Commandant of Indian Naval Academy

“I do not believe that these incidents are a part of a larger malaise. Yes, the incident of INS Betwa shouldn’t have happened, likewise with the INS Sindhughosh. It must also be noted that Mumbai, where a majority of our assets are deployed has a issue with congestion and heavy siltation which reduces the depth, making navigation that much more difficult.”

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