Stung by the enormity of the INS Sindhurakshak mishap early this year, the Southern Naval Command will give the traditional Navy Queen Pageant and Navy Ball a miss this time around in solidarity with kin of the Navy personnel who lost their lives in the accident.
“It was one of the worst tragedies we’ve had and we lost 18 of our men. We want to stand with their families and don’t want to have a celebration like the Navy Ball this year,” Vice-Admiral Satish Soni, chief of the Command, told the media on Tuesday.
However, as part of its outreach measures, the Command held medical camps at various places in the State and in Lakshadweep. As in the previous years, it will showcase its firepower at an operational demonstration at the waterfront abutting Rajendra Maidan on December 7 and 8. Further, all naval ships in the naval harbour will remain open to the general public from December 13 to 15.
“This is to rededicate ourselves to the nation and to expose us to schoolchildren, college students and the general public. There will also be a Navy Fest,” the Vice-Admiral said.
To a query, he said the Command’s “desire” to create a naval station on 650 acres of land offered by the Cochin Port Trust from its proposed outer harbour project was at a “very very preliminary stage” of consideration.
It was about ten days ago that the Port Trust informed the Navy about the commercial and physical feasibility of an outer harbour and a refinery. “Also, they have offered us 650 acres of [the reclaimed] land, complete with berthing space. I’ve just spoken to CNS [Chief of the Naval Staff], but as per procedure, we are supposed to make a statement of case, which will be examined by the Naval Headquarters. Then we are supposed to give a consolidated proposal to MoD [the Ministry of Defence]. They will see the feasibility, availability of finances and if the need indeed exists before giving an in-principle approval. Only then can we go into the details. We have a long way to go,” he said.
The CPT and the Navy, he said, desired to join hands in infrastructure development for the project, which would be beneficial for the port, the city and the Navy.
On the proposed upgrade of the Naval Ship Repair Yard in Kochi into a full-fledged naval dockyard, he said the Command had given a proposal for creation of a dry-dock and more workshops.
“The process of evaluation and approval is under way now. We have answered queries from the Naval Headquarters and we understand that the matter is now with MoD,” he said, adding that a dockyard would help the command service its vessels better.
Asked about the half-yearly coastal security exercise theera vetta , he said the State authorities were responsive to the security requirements and took active part in the exercises.
“We want to encourage the Kadalora Jagrata Samithi, a vigilante group of coastal people, and fishermen to take part. Because of the exercise, our response to coastal security situations improved.”
The Vice-Admiral said that he hoped eventually piecemeal coastal security exercises held in different parts of peninsular India and the archipelagos would converge into a single, integrated security exercise along the entire coast.