Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday formally commissioned the Coast Guard offshore patrol vessel ‘Varaha’ at the Chennai Port Trust here.
After unveiling a plaque commemorating the commissioning ceremony, he said the state-of-the-art ship would be a force multiplier for the Indian Coast Guard, pointing out it has capabilities to operate twin-engine ALH Helicopters developed indigenously by HAL.
Singh, who arrived here on Tuesday on a two-day visit, participated in the Investiture Ceremony of the Coast Guard.
“It is indeed reassuring to witness the growing strength of the Indian Coast Guard, the ‘Sentinals of our seas’ and capabilities of Larsen and Toubro Shipbuilding Ltd, one of the strong supporting pillars for production and maintenance of surface assets of our maritime forces,” he said.
He said the name ‘Varaha’ from the Puranas reminds one of the principles of sacrifice and rescue at sea, saving mother Earth, restoring harmony and strength.
Singh congratulated the Indian Coast Guard and L&T Shipyard “for bringing Varaha back overseas.”
He noted that the multitude of challenges of drug trafficking, oil spill incidents and the growing threat of maritime terrorism calls for cooperation on regional arrangements with various maritime nations and Indian Coast Guard over the years has built bonds of diplomacy.
Singh said the Coast Guard has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with seven maritime nations for capacity building and training collective and cooperative response to deal with maritime threats.
He said India’s engagement with the world has seen exponential growth and the coast guard was now at the fulcrum, operating round the clock to safeguard national interests in the maritime zones of India, apart from building bridges of confidence at sea for the safety, security and growth in the Indian ocean.
Coast Guard Director General K Natarajan said the force, which made a humble beginning in 1977, has 142 ships and 62 aircraft for exclusive economic surveillance in territorial waters.
“In keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative, about 50 additional ships and boats are under construction at various shipbuilding yards and soon will be inducted into our fleets”, he said.
On the aviation front, he said production of 16 Mark III advanced light helicopter (Helo) by HAL, Bengaluru was ‘in progress’ and the first Helo was likely to be inducted by March 2020.
He said the plan was to enhance the number of Coast Guard ships and boats to 200 and 100 aircraft by 2025 to keep pace with future challenges in maritime zones of India.
Noting that maritime terrorism, piracy, trafficking and marine pollution were identified as common maritime threats by all maritime nations, he said these challenges are not only limited by the boundaries but also calls for a cooperative framework by the maritime nations to deal with such menace through bilateral and multilateral agreements.
He said the Coast Guard has ventured into cooperative agreements with various nations, including Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Recently it rescued over 500 stranded fishermen with the assistance from Bangladesh, he said.
“We are deploying approximately about 30-40 ships and 10-12 aircraft on a daily basis to maintain effective surveillance. In 42 years of service, the Coast Guard has saved more than 10,000 lives in more than 3,100 missions”, he said.
Last year alone, Coast Guard saved more than 222 maritime distress alerts resulting in saving of 7,860 lives, he said.
The Offshore Patrol Vessel ‘Varaha’ unveiled Wednesday is part of the contract awarded to Larsen and Toubro to build seven offshore patrol vessels at nearby Kattuppalli port.
This is the fourth in the series of seven 98-m vessels awarded to Larsen and Toubro.
‘Varaha’ refers to the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu who took the form of a boar to rescue Goddess Earth from the ocean by lifting her on his tusks.
‘Varaha’ is the projection of Coast Guard’s will and commitment ‘to serve and protect’ the maritime interest of the country.
The ship has been designed and built indigenously by Larsen and Toubro and is fitted with state of the art communication technology and navigation, sensor and machinery.
The vessel is equipped with a 30-mm gun and a 12.7mm gun for enhancing the fighting efficiency of the vessel.
Some of its special features include Integrated Bridge System, Automated power management system, high power external firefighting system, indigenously built Integrated platform management system and Help Traversing System.
The ship also carries four high-speed boats, including two rigid hull inflated boats for boarding operation, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol.
Besides, the ship has capabilities of carrying limited Pollution Response equipment to contain oil spills at sea.
It displaces 2,100 tonnes and propelled by two engines and is capable of achieving maximum speed of 26 knots and endurance of 5000 nautical miles.
The ship, commandeered by Dushyant Kumar, will be manned by 14 officers and 89 men.
The ship is planned to be based at New Mangalore under the administrative and operational control of Coast Guard Commander (West) Region.