Two Navy men killed, 14 hurt as INS Betwa tips over during undocking

Two Navy personnel were killed and 14 others injured when INS Betwa, a guided missile frigate, tipped over during undocking at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on Monday.

“At about 1.50 pm, INS Betwa was in the process of undocking in Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, when she slipped from her dock blocks and tilted,” said Navy spokesperson Commander Rahul Sinha.

“The incident occurred during undocking evolution wherein it is suspected that dock blocks mechanism failed,” said Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma.

According to sources, the Brahmaputra-class warship has suffered massive damage as it has fallen on the port (left) side thereby not only damaging the warship’s body but also the radar systems installed on top of the bridge. But, the exact extent of damage is yet to be ascertained.

Immediately after the incident, search operation had to be launched to locate two missing sailors who were on the vessel at the time of the incident. While one of them fell into the waters, the other was inside the ship. Both—mechanical engineers Neeraj K Rai and Ashutosh Pandey—succumbed to injuries. A board of inquiry was ordered immediately and technical evaluation was being made to bring back the ship in upright position.

Only after ascertaining the extent of damage, a decision on whether the ship can be repaired or will have to be decommissioned can be taken.

Later on Monday evening, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Lanba left from Delhi for Mumbai to take a stock of the situation.

Those in the know-how of the ship maintenance are of the opinion that naval ships are narrower as compared to merchant vessels. Warships are designed to be top heavy by design due to the structure and installations on it as compared to merchant vessels that have wider hull or base and lesser tools above. Therefore, it makes it all the more challenging process to undock or refloat the ship and is considered as most risky affair.


Incidentally, this isn’t the first accident pertaining to INS Betwa. In January 2014, it had ran aground after colliding with an unidentifiable object while approaching Mumbai naval base. Due to the impact, the sonar system got cracked, leading to faulty readings and ingress of saltwater into sensitive equipment.

Named after the river Betwa, the frigate has been in service for over 12 years. This 3,850-tonne ship was indigenously designed and built with the capability to operate at extended ranges, with speeds up to 30 knots. Its system includes anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes. As it was under refit and repairs, the vessel wasn’t loaded with weapons and missiles.

Monday’s accident is the fifth for the Indian Navy this year, the earlier four—involving INS Viraat (in March), INS Nireekshak (April), INS Vikramaditya (June) and INS Dega (August)—had killed three Navy personnel and left eight injured.

In the past, incidents that have been either more serious or of similar magnitude include that of fire, explosion and submergence of submarine INS Sindhurakshak (August 2010), sinking of INS Vindhyagiri (January 2011), fire on board INS Sindhuratna (February 2014), among others.

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