Karwar: The Indian Navy is poised to complete the first phase of construction at India's state-of-the-art, integrated naval base on the western seaboard at Karwar. Set to become India's fourth naval command headquarters, INS Kadamba, will eventually become the biggest naval base this side of the Suez upon completion.
Starting off as "Project Seabird," the re-christened INS Kadamba, will be the Indian Navy's first operational base with a port controlled exclusively by it. This will allow the navy to position and manoeuvre its operational fleet without having to worry about the movement of merchant vessels.
The Navy's existing bases, including its two operational ones at Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam, have so far been located within commercial ports, making day-to-day operations uncomfortable in times of peace and war.
The project cost for the port is deemed to be Rs.35,000-crore when fully complete.
With the operationalising of the armament depot a few months away, and marking completion of the phase-I part of the project, INS Kadamba has so far seen the construction of a 10,000-tonne ship-lift and ship-transfer system (the only one of its kind in India); the construction of a harbour and anchorage; a 420x185-metre jetty; berthing facilities for around 10 ships; logistics to administer and accommodate over 1,000 officers and sailors and their families; and a modern naval ship repair yard, all at a cost of Rs2,480 crore.
The ship-lift can also be used for underwater hull repairs and has seen fulltime service ever since it was commissioned almost a year ago.
Currently, five ships of the Navy's surface fleet are based out of INS Kadamba, including the amphibious warfare vessel INS Shardul, large patrol craft INS Sukanya and INS Subhadra, replenishment tanker and repair ship, INS Aditya and the diving support ship INS Nireekshak.
According to official sources, the Navy is now in the process of submitting plans to the Government plans for phase II of the programme. Much behind schedule, work on the phase II part of the base was originally to have begun in 2005 and complete by 2010.
While in-principle sanction for phase II already exists, the cabinet committee on security is expected to clear funds for the work before the end of the year. Phase II will involve additional berthing and repair facilities to accommodate 25 ships, tugs and barges.
INS Kadamba will be the only base in the country that will take on large ships such as the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya (ex-Admiral Gorshkov).
The construction of a naval air station with a 6,000-foot runway is also expected to be one of the primary activities under phase II. With the State government now evincing interest in operating civilian commercial flights out of the naval airport, the runway may well be extended to 10,000 feet. The defence ministry is understood to be in discussion with the civil aviation ministry and the Karnataka Government in this regard.