NEW DELHI: The Finance Ministry (FM) has brought the Indian Navy’s ambitious plan to construct its largest and exclusive naval base off Goa to a standstill. Work has been stuck for the last 26 years owing to budgetary constraints. The Rs 35,000-crore project has been further delayed as the Finance Ministry’s approval is yet to come through.
Once work on Phase II of the project—to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security after a FM nod—begins, it will take another 10 years to complete. As per the earlier schedule, Phase II of the project had to be started in 2000 and finished by 2005. In Phase I, which commenced in 1999, the Navy developed facilities for the berthing of 10 warships. In the second phase, the force is expected to more than double these facilities, along with setting up a naval air base, make tunnels for submarines and refueling facilities, as well as repair and maintenance facilities for its largest warships.
In the meantime, the Navy has decided to go ahead with the ground work for the next phase like scouting for a firm to design, manage and construct the mammoth project that will ultimately give India one of the largest naval bases in the world on this side of the Suez canal.
The request for information issued by the Indian Navy on Friday sought expression of interest “to enable short listing of reputable and capable consulting firms and institutions with proven track records, which could be appointed as a Project Management Consultant cum Marine Works Design Consultant (PMC & MWC) for Phase IIA of Project Seabird”.
The Ministry of Finance has thrown budgetary spanners in the deal and blamed the Navy for failing to prioritise its modernisation needs. So far, the Navy had been sharing facilities with commercial vessels at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Kochi. Visakhapatnam harbor has the capability to accommodate about 50 ships meeting Navy requirements. But on the west coast, Mumbai being India’s commercial capital and shallow harbor conditions prevent the berthing of larger warships like aircraft carriers. Moreover, due to extreme congestion, Mumbai port has little scope for expansion.
The strategic importance of INS Kadamba lies in the fact that it is further away from Karachi (1,400 km) than from Mumbai (900 km). This will help protect Indian naval assets from Pakistani missile attacks. (In the 1971 war with Pakistan, Indian ships anchored off Mumbai came under attacks from the Pakistani navy).
The base also has ship-lifting capability of elevating warships weighing up to 10,000 tonnes which can then be transferred to dry docks for repair. The ship-lift is a large platform that can be lowered into water and can hoist a ship vertically. It has the power to lift all naval platforms except aircraft carriers and tankers.