Crew fatigue to short cuts: Shocking lapses led to Indian Navy’s worst accidents

The CAG report pointed out several procedural lapses, and recommended institutionalising Navy safety organisation.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2017 08:57 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Navy submarine accidents,INS Sindhurakshak,INS Sindhuratna
Ships ride at anchors at a naval dockyard where the submarine INS Sindhurakshak caught fire and sank after an explosion in Mumbai. (AP File Photo)

Shocking lapses led to two of the worst Indian naval accidents involving submarines in which 20 personnel lost their lives, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) revealed.

Russian-built submarine INS Sindhurakshak sank after an explosion killing 18 sailors in August 2013 and two officers were killed in a fire on INS Sindhuratna the following year, an accident that led to then navy chief Admiral DK Joshi’s resignation.

Citing the findings of a naval inquiry, the latest CAG report said the operational deployment of INS Sindhurakshak was simply not justified.

“Submarine authorities concerned did not properly assess the crew fatigue, besides, the submarine was holding ammunition nearing life expiry,” the report quoted the naval Board of Inquiry (BoI) findings. The submarine was disposed in June 2017 and its final resting point is 3,000 metres under the Arabian Sea.

The report said the navy’s BoI also brought out that complete ‘Work Up’ – mandatory drills in naval parlance – of the submarine was not conducted.

“The Work Up was completed within one week instead of prescribed two weeks.”

The Rs 404 crore-submarine was commissioned in December 1999.

“The trials and calibration of Navigational aids and sensors should be completed prior to deployment of a submarine for Work Up with any consorts. However, the Sea Acceptance Trials of two critical equipment were not completed even at the time of its preparation for operational deployment,” the report noted in a chapter on naval accidents during the last 10 years.

The CAG said 38 warships were involved in mishaps during 2007-16 and the navy had no framework to deal with safety issues.

The report said a navy BoI, reconvened in February 2014, “inferred leakage of oxygen from a torpedo as a primary initiator of the incident”.

“The laid down Ships Operating Standards (SHOPS) for the submarine had not achieved the requisite Harbour and operational evolutions,” the report said.

On the INS Sindhuratna accident, the CAG said that the navy BoI found “inadequate holding of ISP-60 set, necessary for safety of personnel during damage/fire control”.

The report said smoke and fire detectors were not installed in all compartments of the submarine and there were two fire incidents within two hours.

“Even though the indicator buoy had partial defects which were brought to the notice of Commodore Commanding Submarines (West)…yet the submarine was put to sea with these defects…” The buoy is a communication equipment that indicates a submarine in distress at a recoverable depth.

“Present Indian Navy Safety Organisation is ad hoc in nature, formed without approval from the competent authority. This needs to be institutionalised with proper sanction from the Government,” the CAG recommended.

First Published: Jul 21, 2017 23:00 IST