Following the Centre’s nod for Phase-IIA of ‘Project Seabird’, Karwar in coastal Karnataka is set to become the country’s biggest Naval base by 2025.
In fact, the official sanction granted last week for the latest phase of the ambitious project--with a whopping `13,500 cr outlay-- has the potential to transform the region into the country’s most important Naval base. It will also be home to the Navy’s submarine fleet in addition to having berthing facilities to accommodate as many as the 50-odd frigates.
The base will enhance the Navy’s operational flexibility and strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean region, including in anti-piracy efforts, a senior Ministry of Defence (MoD)official told Express. Actually, the move to set up an exclusive Naval base at Karwar is intended to decongest Mumbai on the West coast and Visakhapatnam on the East coast, as the two ports also have commercial shipping operations. Also, the decision was prompted by Mumbai’s proximity to Pakistan and the Islamic nation’s growing missile arsenal.
Karwar will also get a new Naval air station from where maritime planes and helicopters, including combat aircraft, can operate.
These apart, Karwar’s existing Railway station will be upgraded and expanded to have a ‘siding’ for the Navy’s use.
The Naval base, when completed, will have over one lakh personnel working there, apart from their families living in an upcoming residential township. Civilian facilities such as educational institutions, hospitals, recreational centres and a sports complex too form part of the region’s expansion plans.
“The Karwar base has the facility to berth INS Vikramaditya, the erstwhile Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, which is scheduled to join the Navy in the last quarter of 2013. The expansion will allow it to be home to two more aircraft carriers later,” the official added.
The 45,000-tonne Vikramaditya is currently undergoing refit in Russia and its delivery schedule was revised in September.
Apart from the one for Vikramaditya, Karwar will get two more jetties under Phase-IIA to berth the under-construction 40,000-tonne Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), to be called INS Vikrant, and its follow-on warship, which could weigh around 60,000-tonnes.
It will also host the Scorpene submarines, once they are built by the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), and their follow-on submarines.
By the end of Phase-IIA in 2018, Karwar will be home to about 30 of the Navy’s 160 surface warships and submarines.
Presently, the Navy has placed orders for 44 warships.
It will be inducting at the rate of five or six warships a year from now for another decade, to increase its fleet strength from the existing 145. And Naval chief Admiral D K Joshi had recently said the Navy will be inducting warships at a faster rate than it decommissions them.
Meanwhile, for executing Phase II-A, the Navy is scouting around for global firms with the necessary experience to successfully handle such a mammoth project.
“We are in the process of hiring consultants for building the maritime and aviation military facilities at Karwar,” the official said, adding that six global consultancy firms had been shortlisted.
Another key facility will be the 10,000-tonne ‘ship lift’, the only one of its kind in this part of the world. And the facility will be expanded to add two or three dry and repair berths.