The salvage of INS Sindhurakshak that blew up and sank last August has entered a critical phase, with the onset of monsoon in Mumbai around June 10 likely to slow down efforts to retrieve the Kilo-class submarine.
The navy had awarded a Rs 240-crore contract to a US-based firm in January to salvage the Russian-built submarine, one of the 10 Kilo-class boats operated by the force.
Admiral Robin Dhowan on Monday took stock of the salvage operations during his maiden visit to Western Naval Command (WNC) as navy chief.
The navy’s priority is that the submarine be cleared of unexploded ordnance before the rains set in.
This will eliminate the risk of detonation.
Rendering the weapons aboard the boat safe will allow the salvagers to work more freely. Initial findings indicate that the mishap took place due to a torpedo blowing up in the weapons compartment.
It is suspected missiles and torpedoes were being loaded in the submarine when the mishap occurred.
The salvagers are slogging to make sections of the 2,300-tonne boat buoyant. Silt deposits would have made the warship heavier.
Pontoons are likely to be used to lift it. It is unclear whether the salvage firm will be able to retrieve the boat in one piece.
The navy will know what exactly went wrong only after the submarine is retrieved.
It sank within months of undergoing a `815-crore upgrade in Russia.
Meanwhile, the WNC has been headless for a month after Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha took voluntary retirement.
The navy is waiting for the new government to clear a top-level rejig that will see five to six admirals move into new roles.