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Karwar naval project takes off from May 31

Ravi Sharma

INS Kadamba, India's third naval base on western seaboard

  • Projected cost Rs. 35,000 crores
  • First naval shore facility in Karnataka
  • New base will decongest Mumbai

    BANGALORE: Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee will inaugurate the first phase of Project Seabird, India's long awaited, futuristic, state-of-the-art operational naval base on the western seaboard at Karwar (Karnataka) on May 31.

    To be commissioned as Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kadamba (after the famous fourth century dynasty), the base, after the unfurling of the Naval ensign and the traditional "breaking of the commissioning pennant," will become India's third operational one after Mumbai and Visakhapatnam. To be equipped with a naval air station, naval armament depot, research facility and a full-fledged naval ship repair yard, Kadamba is expected to cost Rs. 35,000 crores, and in time become the biggest naval base this side of the Suez Canal.

    Also taking part in the commissioning will be six frontline Indian naval ships, including frigates and destroyers. They will be detached from the flotilla of 12 vessels that are presently taking part in routine exercises in the Arabian Sea. The ships will sail into the base's ample anchorage and then be berthed for the duration of the ceremony alongside the newly built 420 by 185m jetty. For the Navy the commissioning celebrations will be unique for several reasons. It will be one of the rare occasions of the commissioning of a shore establishment; it will also be the first naval shore establishment in Karnataka (all the other southern States except Pondicherry have naval shore establishments); and could also be the last shore establishment that the Navy will be commissioning.

    Sandwiched between the craggy hills of the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west, Kadamba is an ideal location.

    Encompassing over 11,200 acres of land — most of it along a 26-km stretch of sea front from Karwar Head in the north through Baitkol, Kamath, Binaga, Kwada and Belekeri Bays — Kadamba will not only enable the Navy to decongest Mumbai but will be the first base to be exclusively controlled by the Navy.

    It will allow the Navy to position and manoeuvre its fleet without worrying about the movement of merchant vessels. (All of the Navy's existing bases, including operational ones at Mumbai and Visakhapatnam are within the commercial port making for an unsuitable situation, especially in times of war.)

    The Navy plans to initially base around ten ships of the surface fleet — mainly of diesel and gas turbine design, including a few missile destroyers, frigates, and corvettes, auxiliary ships and off shore patrol vessels — at Kadamba.

    The depth and width of the base's approach channel means that all of India's naval platforms, including the aircraft carrier "Viraat" and the 44,500 tonnes Kiev Class Soviet Union build "Admiral Gorshkov" (that India is acquiring and will be renamed INS Vikramaaditya), will be able to sail into Kadamba's harbour. Kadamba will be the first base/port in India to have a shiplift facility.

    The 10,000 tonnes displacement capacity 175 by 28m shiplift will allow the Navy to bring in, repair and re-sail all of its vessels, without India's aircraft carrier and tankers. At commissioning Kadamba will have a strength of 50 officers and 250 sailors, a number that will go up as facilities are upgraded.

    The base will initially be under the command of the Commanding Officer, INS Kadamba, but will in the near future be headed by a Flag Officer Commanding (Karwar), who in turn will be tasked by the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command.

    Though initially the inauguration was to have taken place on May 9 it had to be postponed. .

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