Crew fatigue may have led to the August 2013 mishap on board submarine INS Sindhurakshak off the Mumbai coast. Eighteen personnel were killed in the navy’s worst peace-time accident.
A comprehensive naval probe has revealed that the crew members handling weapons on board the Russian-built submarine were tired and overworked.
“The crew was working beyond their prescribed hours. Fatigue and exhaustion may have triggered human error that led to the accident. Standard operating procedures were violated at several levels,” a top naval officer familiar with the investigation told HT on Monday.
Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan had last week indicated that human error had contributed to the multiple explosions and eventual sinking of the 2,300-tonne fully-armed boat docked off the Mumbai coast on August 14, 2013.
Dhowan had called it an extremely serious accident as it was not normal for a submarine to explode in harbour.
“A submarine is a dangerous platform because it has explosives, fuel and lots of equipment. When procedures don’t get followed, then there is room for error. And whenever there is room for error, accidents can happen,” he had said.
The Board of Inquiry’s report into the accident is currently being evaluated.
The Kilo-class boat sank barely seven months after it had undergone a Rs 815-crore upgrade in Russia, raising serious questions about the quality of its refit. But the probe has found no evidence to link the mishap to the quality of upgrade, a source said.
As many as 24 Indian ships and submarines were involved in accidents in the last three years and nearly 30 personnel are facing action for lapses that led to mishaps under their watch.
More heads are expected to roll in connection with the INS Sindhurakshak accident once the probe report is final. The punishment could range from losing of seniority, retirement benefits to dismissal from service.
Figures presented by the government in Parliament last week revealed 14 mishaps took place during Admiral DK Joshi’s 18-month tenure as navy chief. He resigned on February 26 when two officers were killed in a fire on board INS Sindhuratna, accepting moral responsibility for some of the mishaps.