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Force Magazine

Relook at Safety

The sinking of the TRV-A72 has raised the need for urgent modernisation of the navy

By Dilip Kumar Mekala

Five sailors of the Indian Navy lost their lives when the Torpedo Recovery Vessel (TRV)-A72 sank off the coast of Vishakhapatnam on November 7. “It is an unfortunate incident and investigations are being conducted with all seriousness,” assured Navy Chief, Admiral R.K. Dhowan. There were 29 personnel on board at the time of the incident and 24 were rescued by the fleet ships shortly after the incident. While one of the five sailors, James Jacob POME lost his life during rescue operation, four others (one officer and three sailors) went missing. The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) later stated that the chances of survival of the four missing personnel “appear grave”. But as per the procedure, naval ships, aircrafts and helicopters continued search and rescue operations for seven days. “We will continue to make all efforts to see whatever can be done,” stated CNS. Several ships of the eastern naval fleet and few other aircraft including Boeing P-8I, Dorniers, Sea King 42C and Chetak helicopters were deployed immediately after the incident to search for the missing personnel.

The depressing saga of naval accidents refuses to end. And the latest incident once again emphasised the urgency of modernising the navy. TRV-A72 was built by Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) in 1983 and has served the Indian Navy for the last 31 years. Ironically, the vessel had undergone a major refit last year and also a short refit this year. “This is a serious incident. The Indian Navy will, as it has done in the previous instances, investigate the case and rectify the shortcomings in our system,” said Admiral Dhowan.

Meanwhile, the CNS had visited the accident site in Vishakhapatnam and interacted with the eastern naval commander and also the crew members to understand what exactly went wrong with the vessel.

TRV-accident While the final report is awaited, initial reports of the Indian Navy suggested that the probable reason for sinking of the vessel was ingress of sea-water (flooding) in the engine room and Aft Steering compartment. A board of inquiry headed by a Captain has been constituted to investigate into the circumstances leading to the mishaps. When asked the reasons behind such incidents, the Navy Chief replied with an assurance, “As you know, we have started safety audits in all the ships”. He then went on to say that “this investigation on this vessel will have full details on why the flooding had happened and what reasons led to the sinking of the ship”.

The life of a ship in the Indian Navy, according to the CNS, ranges from 25-30 years depending on the type of ship. And since the navy is more than 25 years old, there are always a large number of platforms that operate beyond their life cycles. “The navy takes pride in maintaining old platforms and since we cannot induct the new platforms so quickly, we would like to optimally utilise every platform to see how the lives of the vessels can be extended,” he added. The delay in inducting the new platforms is a major concern because the navy is forced to stretch the life of the existing vessels. “We would like to induct new platforms, but delays take place. To overcome these delays, we have to extend the service lives of our vessels,” he added.

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