INS Vikrant (formerly HMS Hercules) was purchased by India from the United Kingdom in 1957.

The Navy last week sold the iconic INS Vikrant to a ship-breaking company here for Rs. 63.2 crore. The decommissioned aircraft carrier, which played a major role in the 1971 war and was retired in 1997, is now the property of IB Commercial Private Ltd.

INS Vikrant (formerly HMS Hercules) was purchased by India from the United Kingdom in 1957. It was operated from 1961 to 1997. (The other INS Vikrant is an Indian-built aircraft carrier which was launched in 2013.)

“As soon as we learnt that the ship was being auctioned, we bid for it. It is a prominent ship and we will move it out of the Mumbai harbour in the next 15 days,” manager Teslim Pavaskar told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The company plans to scrap it at the Darukhana ship-breaking yard here. Under the sale contract, the company should tow the ship out of the harbour in a month’s time.

A Defence Ministry source said the deal was in the nation’s interest. “The option of converting Vikrant into a museum was not economically viable as it would have cost us around Rs. 500 crore.”

Other sources also said it was not fit enough to be converted into a museum. “The fire-fighting system on the vessel was damaged. Also, it had got rusted and had sustained structural damage,” another source said.

“The berthing-space constraints at the harbour will ease a bit with Vikrant being moved out. Around 700 feet of space will be liberated and this will facilitate navigation of naval vessels in the channel.”

In December 2013, a public interest litigation petition was filed in the Bombay High Court to preserve the ship and convert it into a museum.

But the Defence Ministry replied it was not feasible to convert the ship into a maritime museum. The court then dismissed the petition, and the Ministry set up an advisory board to sell the ship to the highest bidder.

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