November 3, 2016
Kochi: A bond of 25 years has come to an end. On October 23, INS Viraat bid adieu to Cochin Shipyard, which served it loyally for 25 long years. INS Viraat, one of the oldest and most prestigious aircraft carriers in the world was a regular at Kochi since 1991. It was here that its refits and repairs, that took months of intricate and skilled work force, took place.
“It was an honour to be part of the team that was entrusted the repair work,” reminisces a former shipyard worker, who holds many memories of the grand ship that has seen many a milestone in Indian history.
“Till 1991, the shipyard had only been involved in the repair works of container ships, but INS Viraat broke the mould and brought the shipyard international recognition,” says Commander Rahul Dev, who has been part of Southern Naval Command in Kochi.
The engineering aspects of the carrier were highly praised by international naval authorities and Cochin Shipyard has played a major role in giving INS Viraat a robust look. In 25 years, the ship went through 14 refits in all, including one in August which saw it undergoing a Rs 20 crore hull refurbishing and engine repair. One of its most expensive refits was done in 2008 for Rs 137 crore.
The ship is in the records of Guinness records for being the oldest serving war ship. A part of the Royal Navy during the Falkland campaign of 1982, it was commissioned into the Indian Navy in May 1987. Ever since, it has been the centre of gravity for Fleet Air Defence, housing fighters like Sea Harriers, Anti-submarine air craft Seaking and SAR helicopter Chetak. The majestic carrier also played major roles in the Sri Lankan peace keeping operations of 1989 and in the Kargil War of 1999. The ship also took part in many international operations as well. After a glorious stint with Southern Naval Command, helmed by captain Puneet Chadha, INS Viraat completed its last refit here and has been towed back to Mumbai from Ernakulam wharf.