Saturday, January 16, 2021

World’s Longest Serving Aircraft Carrier – HMS Hermes Aka INS Viraat Will Not Be Turned Into A Maritime Museum – India

The world’s longest-serving aircraft carrier, INS Viraat aka HMS Hermes may soon go under the hammer as the Indian government has rejected the proposal to “immortalize” the aircraft carrier in a maritime museum. 

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After calls of saving the INS Viraat, the UK-based Hermes Viraat Heritage Trust was handed a defeat as the government refused to issue it a ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) for buying the warship from Shree Ram Shipbreakers Group. The latter had bought the ship in an auction from the government at scrap value. Ironically, the news was received on Navy Day, celebrated on December 4. 

However, the Hermes Viraat Heritage Trust and its India partner, Envitech, have written a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Indian PM Narendra Modi, requesting to save the historical warship or allow the trust to tow it back to the UK. 

”The Trust has obtained quotes from reputable towing experts for the long tow to the UK from Mumbai, India,” says the letter accessed by NDTV. The trust plans to create a world-class maritime museum opposite Liverpool City Centre to display the warship.

The carrier, also known as ‘Grand Old Lady’, was developed during World War II and was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1959 as HMS Hermes. After serving for 27 years, it was sold to India and was named INS Viraat. INS Viraat remained as the flagship warship for the Indian Navy for 30 years and was finally decommissioned on March 6, 2017.  

According to the Indian Navy, the ship which was the centerpiece of the Navy, and housed the fighters Sea Harriers of INAS 300, popularly called “White Tigers”, anti-submarine aircraft Sea king Mk 42B – also known as “Harpoons,” Sea King Mk 42 C and the SAR helicopter Chetak as an integral flight. The indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters ‘Dhruv’ and the Russian twin rotor Kamov-31 has also operated from the ship.

As part of the Indian Navy, the warship clocked more than 22,622 flying hours by various aircraft in the past three decades and has spent nearly 2252 days at sea sailing across 5,88,287 nautical miles (10,94,215 KM), indicating it spent seven years at sea, circumnavigating the earth 27 times.

After several calls from politicians and even state governments to save the historic warship, India’s federal government has failed to intervene in the matter. In September, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader and Member of Parliament tweeted in support of saving the warship, following which, netizens also joined in the effort.

“I am ready to give away the warship for Rs 100 crore as the Mumbai-based firm is doing this out of patriotism. But, only money is not the issue here,” chairman of the Shree Ram Group, Mukesh Patel told news agency PTI. “As per rules, the firm can not buy the ship from me without an NOC from the Centre.”

In his statements to the press, Patel has repeatedly displayed his intention to sell the warship for the right price and an NOC from the government. “I do not want to see the company’s credit worthiness. I have told them that I will need Rs 125 crore for the ship, but I do not mind giving it to them at Rs 100 crore if they can refloat the vessel at their own cost and risk. I will hand the ship over to them as soon as my bank informs me that Rs 100 crore has been deposited in my account,” Patel told The Indian Express. The group bought the warship for Rs 38.54 crore.

However, the Ministry of Defense has claimed that the group doesn’t intend to sell the warship. “The Counsel appearing on behalf of Shree Ram Group of Industries before the Hon’ble High Court has categorically submitted before the Court that they are not interested in parting with the possession of the ship earmarked for dismantling.”

It is yet to see what will be the fate of the Grand Old Lady as people are still making desperate attempts to save it from being dismantled.

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