Cracks in shaft seals led to Navy ship sinking off
Cracks in the seals attached to the shaft of the naval Torpedo Recovery Vessel (TRV A-72) that sank off the coast of Visakhapatnam at 8 pm on Thursday is being indicated as the prima facie cause of the accident. While Naval chief Admiral R.K. Dhowan is cutting short his official visit to Seychelles and returning home in view of the tragedy, the Navy has already ordered a Board of Inquiry into the tragic incident that claimed the life of a sailor.
Four naval personnel are still missing and a full-scale search and rescue operation is being conducted by as many as nine naval ships along with helicopters. Efforts are also on to retrieve the vessel that has sunk to a depth of 370 metres to ascertain whether any of the missing were trapped inside. Deputy commissioner of police G. Ramgopal Naik said that the deceased has been identified as James Jacob, 26, from Kerala.
According to sources in the Indian Navy, one of the missing persons is Lt. Commander Y. Shishir Kumar, 32, a weapon officer of Eastern Naval Command’s, Naval Armament Inspection Office. The other missing personnel are two divers and a crewmember of the TRV.
The body of the dead sailor James Jacob, 26, was initially shifted to naval hospital, INHS Kalyani on Friday morning and then to King George Hospital (KGH) for post-mortem before being handed over it family members. Deputy commissioner of police G. Ramgopal Naik said that a case had been registered under Section 174 of CrPC and investigation was on. He added that concrete information was yet to be received from the Indian Navy.
The Navy had managed to rescue 24 out of the 29 persons on board the ill-fated vessel on Thursday night. There were scientists and Naval armament experts on board the vessel but all of them were rescued. In a statement, the Navy said, “A full scale Search and Rescue (SAR) operation has been launched by the Indian Navy for the four personnel reported missing in a mishap involving a Torpedo Recovery Vessel (TRV A-72) of Indian Navy, which sank off the coast of Visakhapatnam at around 8 pm last evening. Nine ships of the Eastern Fleet and a few aircraft including Boeing P8I, Dorniers, Sea King 42C and Chetak helicopters have been deployed through the night to search for the missing personnel.
At the time of the incident there were 29 personnel on board. One sailor has lost his life during the rescue operation and four personnel (one officer and three sailors) are still reported missing. Twenty four personnel have been rescued safely by the Search and Rescue (SAR) ships dispatched to the area.” The Navy further said, “As per the initial reports, the probable reason for sinking of the vessel seems to be ingress of sea-water (flooding) in the Engine Room and Aft Steering Compartment of the vessel. A Board of Inquiry headed by a Captain has been constituted to investigate into the circumstances leading to the mishap.”
The TRV is an auxiliary vessel which is used to recover practice torpedoes fired by fleet ships and submarines. The Navy is now left with only one TRV after the tragedy and it is expected that the government will acquire more of these for the Navy. The vessel that sank had undergone three major refits in the past 31 years, the last one being from May 2012, to January 2013. In all, the vessel had undergone as many as 27 refits including minor ones. The ship required a minimum of 13 persons to operate it.
The Navy had earlier been hit by a string of minor mishaps involving its warships apart from two major submarine accidents from August, 2013, till February, 2014, which led to the resignation in February this year of the then naval chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi. Subsequently, the Navy had strengthened various safety measures in its platforms. This is the first major tragedy to have hit the Navy during the term of the current naval chief.