India’s only aircraft carrier INS Vikarmaditya is set to sail from the Kochi port on October 23 for basin trials before returning to its home port at Karwar after undergoing a five-month refit at a cost of ?705 crore at the Cochin Shipyard. This was the second refit of the carrier since its induction into the Indian Navy in 2013. Both refits were performed by the Cochin Shipyard. “It’s a short refit, but the Navy planned it in such a way that the underwater work package of the next refit – a longer maintenance routine to be conducted in 2020 or 2021 – was also taken up along with this. This means that the carrier is not required to be dry-docked for the next five-six years,” Captain Puruvir Das, commanding officer of Vikramaditya, told The Hindu on the sidelines of a media visit to the carrier now docked at the Kochi port. “The carrier’s hull got treated and painted. We have a large number of tanks and spaces which got cleaned and painted too. Then we had some work on the shafts – the carrier has four of them. In floating condition, a diver goes down and measures the health of the shafts with some gauges, but they are fully checked when dry-docked. We had found during routine check-ups that some temperature readings of the shafts were going high, so we had to dry-dock to check the condition of the bearings. That’s been done now,” Capt Das said. Sources said 16 of the 25 shaft bearings were changed as part of the refit. “When the carrier is alongside the jetty (that’s right now), the shafts will be turned at very low RPM to see if everything is rotating properly and once we are out at sea, higher revolutions will be done. There will be a large number of workers of the Cochin Shipyard as we go out for the trials to attend to any possible issues. Once it is over, they will return by boat and we will proceed to Karwar,” he said. He said the Navy was looking at various options for berthing the vessel for its next major maintenance – the normal refit that would come around 2020-21.
Docking space “First, we need a docking space and you need depths. Karwar is suitable for us. Then you need the vendor base, which is well-established in Kochi. But the problem is that we will occupy this berth, the Ernakulam Wharf (at the port) for a long period. It isn’t a naval port. Dredging up the channel is another issue. But the Navy is looking at it all and will take a call in a month or two,” he said.Captain Das also pointed out that the air wing of Vikramaditya was full-fledged right now and that the carrier would be in Goa in November for flying operations. Over the last 10 days, nearly 16,000 people visited the carrier.