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INS Viraat, world’s oldest aircraft carrier, may soon turn into museum

Before it was decommissioned at Mumbai’s Naval Dockyard in March 2017, INS Viraat was the last British-built ship serving in the Indian Navy. Viraat was sold to India in 1987, and served the Navy in several crucial operations till 2016.

mumbai Updated: Nov 02, 2018 12:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
INS Viraat,Indian Navy,INS Viraat museum
The Maharashtra cabinet has given nod for converting decommissioned Indian Navy aircraft carrier, INS Viraat, into a museum. (File Photo / Defence PRO )

You may soon be able to walk into the world’s oldest aircraft carrier, INS Viraat. The Maharashtra cabinet on Thursday approved converting the decommissioned warship, which served in the Indian Navy for nearly 30 years, into a museum.

The warship is a slice of history: before it was decommissioned at Mumbai’s Naval Dockyard in March 2017, INS Viraat was the last British-built ship serving in the Indian Navy. The ship was commissioned into Britain’s Royal Navy in 1959 as HMS Hermes. Viraat was sold to India in 1987, and served the Navy in several crucial operations till 2016.

Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Viraat is seen with other ships during a the Fleet Review (PFR-11) in Mumbai. (HT File )

The state cabinet has proposed to dock the INS Viraat off the shore near Nivti Rock in Sindhudurg, around 600km from Mumbai. Apart from the museum, the state cabinet is also planning to set up tourist facilities such as a luxury hotel, and scuba diving and other adventure sports. The cabinet nod came after the defence ministry approved the state government’s proposal, which is estimated to cost Rs 852 crore. However, officials said it is still unclear if the project is feasible.

Indian Navy officials perform yoga on the flight deck of Indian Navy's decommissioned aircraft carrier 'Viraat' on the 4th International Yoga Day, in Mumbai, June 21, 2018. (PTI File )

An initial detailed project report (DPR), made by a consultant, proposes the conversion of the ship into comprehensive tourism destination. “But, the activities on the ship have not been finalised yet, and the design is subject to change,” said an official from the ports department. “The luxury hotel and residential accommodation has not been finalised and may be decided based of demand by bidders.”

The official said any activity planned on the ship will be allowed only if it “maintains the dignity” of the warship.

Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command and Captain Puneet Chadha,Commanding Officer INS Viraat during the visit on board the Indian Naval Ship Viraat in Mumbai, February 27, 2017. (HT File )

According to rough estimates, the government expects an annual revenue of Rs 137 crore against a maintenance cost of Rs130 crore. “The project will be implemented on a public private partnership basis by inviting global tenders from investors. We are still doubtful about the feasibility of the project, but we have expressed our interest for the procurement of the ship from the Centre by taking this decision,” another official said.

A committee appointed under the chief secretary will fine-tune the proposal with naval officials.

First Published: Nov 02, 2018 11:59 IST