Navy warship INS Vindhyagiri tilts precariously, 300 tonnes of fuel on board

Mumbai: A once majestic warship now stands - just barely - in less than seven metres of water on the floor of the naval dockyard in Mumbai.  (See Pictures)

Still, there is much to be thankful for. Nobody was on board the INS Vindhyagiri when the fire began a little after 4 last evening, the result of a collision with another ship. (Read: Government issues statement on Navy warship fire) Though the warship, which was built at a cost of Rs 71 crore in 1981, is extensively damaged, the Navy says it can be repaired and eventually be brought back into service. 300 tonnes of fuel is on board the warship, but for now, the Mumbai Port Trust says there's no cause for concern over a potential oil spill. 

Disaster has struck twice in less than 12 hours for the ship. First, it was hit on Sunday evening by a merchant ship on its way out of the Mumbai harbor. There were close to 400 people on board the Vindhyagiri - families of officers were celebrating Navy Day.

The MV Nordlake was exiting the harbor as the Vindhyagiri was trying to navigate its way in. The Nordlake steered suddenly to avoid another ship that it was communicating with. That's when it collided with the warship.

Those on board the Vindhyagiri were evacuated.

"When the collision happened, there was a hole in the boiler room and that is where the fire started. All the people were evacuated as it was close to the shore. Unfortunately the fire could not be doused, so the ship has sunk," said Qaiser Khalid, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mumbai Port Zone.                                

The Director General of Shipping has ordered an inquiry into the collision. The Navy has also registered an FIR with the Yellow Gate Police Station against Nordlake on the grounds that the ship from Cyprus did not follow standard operating procedure.

"The ship is presently listing to port and has touched bottom," a Defence spokesperson said.

The captain and crew of the merchant vessel were booked under IPC sections 280 (rash navigation of vessel), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 427 (mischief causing damage), Deputy Commissioner of Police (Ports) Khalid Kaisar said.
   
The Board of Inquiry is expected to look into reasons behind the collision, assess damage to the ship and recommend if it was fit to be used again.