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INS Matanga catches fire at naval dockyard; a look at spate of accidents involving Indian Naval ships

Sunday, 6 April 2014 - 5:44pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna webdesk

  • INS Representational picture

A minor fire broke out on the INS Matanga which is at the naval dockyard in Mumbai as per television reports. The ship was parked in dry dock area and fire tenders rushed to the spot to douse the fire. 

No causalities have been reported yet. The 68-metre tug has a top speed of 27 kmph. This has been the fourteenth INS mishap that has shaken the Indian Defence Ministry in recent times. 

There have been 13 accidents involving Indian Navy ships and submarines since last August. While most of the accidents did not claim any lives, 21 officers and sailors have died in three mishaps. The most recent INS Kolkata accident put the scanner on Indian navy as two lives were lost but there has been no respite. 

Explaining his stance on the increase in number of accidents, Captain Navdeep Singh, Lawyer and member of Indian Territorial army says, "The most apparent reason seems the lack of expertise in the decision making process. The military is not a part of the decision making process in India, and in fact the ‘Rules of Business’ of the Govt of India tacitly state that the defence secretary shall be responsible for the defence of India. In fact, the defence establishment needs something like a Defence Board, akin to the Railway Board as is in place in the Ministry of Railways, where the military and all other stakeholders should have a say in the decision making process related to the defence of the country". 

Majority of Indian artillery and weapons are imported from other countries including Russia. While the budget for procuring these is high, the quality is usually sub-standard. Singh alleges these to red-tapism in procuring weapons. 
He further rues that the responsibilty for such accidents lies with the Ministry of Defence which is practically responsible for acquisition and upgradation. "The military chiefs can only write to and apprise the Raksha Mantri (defence ministry)," he says. 
AK Anthony is known to be very honest in his dealings and a small whiff of corruption would lead him to cancel all deals. "The current Minister (AK Anthony) is known to be absolutely honest. However, corrupt elements are ostensibly not handled effectively by Antony who is perceived to be too soft and relies too much on file notings provided to him by lower level officials on which there is lack of proper application of mind," adds Navdeep Singh. 

Below is a list of mishaps that have shook the defence department: 

*INS Kolkata, a Kolkata class destroyer, had a malfunction on board which led to a toxic gas leak killing a senior officer Commander Kuntal Wadhwa instantly. It seems that the ship suffered malfunction in its carbon dioxide unit while undergoing machinery trials, leading to gas leakage.

* INS Sindhurakshak (August 14, 2013) - Eighteen crew members on board - three officers and 15 sailors - were killed when blasts ripped through the torpedo compartment of the INS Sindhurakshak while the submarine was berthed in Mumbai harbour.

* INS Viraat (September 2013) - Fire broke out near the officer's mess of the aircraftcarrier off the Mumbai coast. No casualties were reported.

* INS Konkan (December 4, 2013) - A minesweeper of the Eastern Naval Command, the vessel caught fire at the naval dockyard at Visakhapatnam while undergoing repairs. The fire engulfed much of the ship's interiors before it doused. No deaths were reported.

* INS Talwar (December 23, 2013) - A fishing trawler sank after colliding with the frontline frigate near Ratnagiri district, injuring four of the 27 people aboard the trawler. The trawler was operating without lights. There were no causalties onboard the ship.

* INS Tarkash (December 2013) - A stealth frigate which conducted several overseas missions, INS Tarkash suffered damage to its hull when it hit the jetty while docking at the Mumbai. There were no casualties.

* INS Betwa (January 22, 2014) - The indigenously built frigate ran aground and collided with an unidentified object while approaching the Mumbai harbour. The frigate's sonar system was found to be cracked, leading to faulty readings and ingress of saltwater into sensitive equipment.

* INS Vipul (January 2014) Deployed with the elite 22nd Killer Missile Vessel Squadron, a hole was detected in a compartment, forced it back into the harbour while it was on an operational mission. It had to be sent for repairs.

INS Sindhughosh (January 2014) - The leading ship of her class of diesel-electric submarines, the Sindhughosh ran aground at the naval harbour in Mumbai. The submarine was re-floated and did not suffer much damage. At the time of the incident, it was fully armed, carrying its entire compliment of 70 personnel, all of whom were safe.

INS Airavat (February 3, 2014) - Amphibious ship INS Airavat, the latest of the Shardul class of tank-landing ships, ran aground off the coast of Visakhapatnam. The propellers of the warship were permanently damaged and had to be replaced for the vessel to become operational again.

INS Sindhuratna (February 26, 2014) Two sailors died and seven members of the 94-strong crew were evacuated after inhaling smoke aboard the diesel-powered submarine following a fire. A board of inquiry in its preliminary report, said that fire in some cables led to the smoke in the third compartment.

INS Kolkata (Yard 701) (March 7, 2014) - An officer was killed and a worker injured after inhaling carbon dioxide gas which leaked from a container in the advanced warship at Mumbai's Mazagon Dock Limited.

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