A new strategic naval base commissioned at Porbandar on Saturday will help boost the security of Gujarat’s 1600-km coastline, naval chief Admiral RK Dhowan has said.
INS Sardar Patel was commissioned by Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, who unveiled a plaque and read the commissioning warrant of the second base in Gujarat after INS Dwarka near Okha.
“Gujarat is a thriving maritime state which has a 1600-km-long coastline. The state has 43 private and public ports which have contribution of 50% in the country's maritime industries,” Dhowan told reporters on board the warship INS Kolkata.
Around 120 million tonnes of crude – or 71% of the country's requirements – reaches refineries in Gujarat from the Gulf of Kutch and the state has a growing shipbuilding industry that comprises public and private shipyards, he said.
There are also big fishing companies and offshore oil development areas off the Gujarat coast. These assets have a direct bearing on the economical condition of Gujarat and the country, he added.
INS Sardar Patel will ensure coordination between warships, submarines and aircraft deployed in the coastal regions of Gujarat. “Their operational and administrative support and logistic support will be given by the new base," Dhowan said.
A statement from the navy said the 2008 Mumbai attacks, carried out by Pakistani terrorists who reached India by sea, had added a new dimension to coastal security arrangements. This has enhanced the need for continued naval presence in the area, the statement said.
The economic importance of Gujarat and the unresolved maritime border dispute with Pakistan over Sir Creek are “core factors governing sustenance and operation of naval assets from the forward operating naval bases at Porbandar”, the statement said.
The chief minister accused previous Congress governments of ignoring the security of Gujarat’s coast, which was used for "anti-national activities like terrorism and smuggling of drugs and weapons”.
"Last month, the Coast Guard and Indian Navy apprehended a suspected ship with narcotics substance of Rs 600 crore. We have to remain alert on the issue of coastal security," she said.
She hailed the decision to name the base after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the country’s first home minister.
"It is a matter of pride not only for Gujarat but also for India as a naval base has been named after Sardar Patel at the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi," she said.
The ports in Gujarat handle 300 million tonnes of cargo annually, which is 30% of the total cargo handled by Indian ports. The navy said industrial development in Gujarat, with its high maritime component and considerable infrastructure on the seafront, makes the state vulnerable from sea during hostilities and peacetime.
Commodore B R Prakash, the naval officer in-charge for Gujarat, is the first commanding officer of INS Sardar Patel.