Accident on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, 2 killed
NEW DELHI: A sailor and a civilian worker were killed on Friday in an accident on board the country’s largest warship, the 45,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, which is currently undergoing a refit at the Karwar naval base in Karnataka.
The accident took place at about 5 pm when a team of workers were replacing a pipe in the sewage treatment plant located among the lowermost compartments of the 20-storey tall aircraft carrier.
“The workers were trying to repair the leakage of sewage water and Hydrogen Sulphide fumes. Due to inhalation of toxic fumes, four personnel fell unconscious,” said an officer.
Two of them, identified as shipwright artificer Rakesh Kumar and Mohandas Kolambkar, an employee of M/s Royal Marine, succumbed at the naval hospital in Karwar, while the other two are in a stable condition. The Navy has ordered an inquiry into the incident, and action has been taken to render the compartment and area on the ship safe and secure, said the officer.
This is the first major refit-and-repair of INS Vikramaditya, or the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov that was inducted in November 2013 under a $2.33 billion deal with Russia. With the 45 MiG-29Ks ordered for another $2 billion to operate from its deck, the aircraft carrier is the costliest single weapons platform the country has ever bought.
The Navy has been hit by a string of accidents over the last three to four years, with Admiral DK Joshi even resigning as the Navy chief in February 2014 after a mishap on board Kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuratna, which killed two officers and injured several others.
The INS Sindhuratna accident had come after another submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, had sunk at the Mumbai dockyard after several internal explosions in August 2013, which had killed three officers and 15 sailors.
While the Navy had sacked several warship captains after the mishaps, as also directed all personnel to strictly adhere to safety guidelines, it is also true that several factors have come together to create such a situation in the blue-water force.
Delays in clearing new projects and emergency purchases is making the Navy flog ageing warships well beyond their operational lives. At least 10 of the 13 diesel-electric submarines in the force at present, for instance, are over 25 years old.
Refits and maintenance of the old warships also remains quite poor due to lack of proper infrastructure and management at dockyards and shipyards. “Moreover, with pressure from the top, many technical and safety corners are cut to ensure adequate operational force-levels.
There is, for instance, laxity in conducting water-tight integrity and citadel tests,” said an officer.