India commissioning ‘Ikshak’ to match China’s Wang Yuan survey ships

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, November 26: India on Saturday commissioned ‘Ikshak’, a larger survey vessel, at Kattupalli, Chennai. This is the third of the four vessels being built by the Kolkata headquartered Garden Reach Shipbuilders, which is likely to give a major boost to the capability of the Indian Navy to survey and map the international waters.

The capacity of the survey vessels was on display when similar Chinese ship docked at the Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, which was described as a spy ship. Yuan Wang series of vessels are part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fleet of China, which are claimed by reporters to map the international waters from East Asia to Africa to keep eyes on critical assets.

“Ikshak made her first contact with water of Bay of Bengal at 1040 hrs at the launch ceremony graced by the VAdm MA Hampiholi, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command. In keeping with the Naval maritime tradition, Madhumati Hampiholi, spouse of VAdm MA Hampiholi, launched the ship to the chanting of invocation from Atharva Veda. The ship has been named Ikshak’ which means a guide,” said the Ministry of Defence in an official statement, adding that the ship has been named to signify the contribution of the survey ships towards facilitating safe passage for mariners at sea.

The contract for building four SVL ships was signed between the Ministry of Defence and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata in 2018 for a total cost of Rs 2435 crore. As per build strategy adopted by GRSE, first ship is being built at GRSE, Kolkata and construction of balance three ships (upto outfitting stage) has been sub-contracted to L&T Shipbuilding, Kattupalli. The first of class ship Sandhayak’ was launched on December 5, 2021.

The SVL ships will replace the existing Sandhayak Class survey ships with new generation hydrographic equipment to collect oceanographic data. The Survey Vessel (Large) ships are 110 m long, 16 m wide with deep displacement of 3400 tons and a complement of 231 personnel. “Propulsion system of the ship consists of two main engines in twin shaft configuration and is designed with cruise speed of 14 knots and maximum speed of 18 knots. Bow and Stern Thrusters have been catered for better manoeuvring at low speeds required during shallow water survey operations,” said the Ministry of defence in the statement, adding that the “hull of these ships is made from indigenously developed DMR 249-A steel manufactured by Steel Authority of India Limited”.

With a capability to carry four survey motor boats and an integral helicopter, the primary role of the ships would be to undertake full scale coastal and deep-water hydrographic surveys of ports and navigational channels, said the ministry, adding that the ships would also be deployed for collecting oceanographic and geophysical data for defence as well as civil applications. “In their secondary role, the ships are capable of providing limited defence, besides serving as hospital ships during emergencies,” added the Ministry.

Despite challenges due to COVID-19 pandemic, L&T and GRSE have made substantial progress and aim to deliver Ikshak’ by Oct 2023. “Launch of the third Survey Vessel reinforces our resolve for indigenous shipbuilding as part of our Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India’, and thrust to the vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. The Survey Vessels Large will have over 80 per cent indigenous content by cost. This will also ensure that large scale defence production is executed by Indian manufacturing units thereby generating employment and capability build up within the country,” said the Ministry.

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