Saturday, 8 March 2014

Another navy officer killed in warship mishap


A file photo of the three Kolkata-class destroyers being built at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Mar 14

Continuing the run of mishaps that has plagued Indian naval warships of late, one officer was killed and two workers briefly hospitalised on Friday after an accident on board INS Kolkata, the navy’s newest warship being constructed at Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL).

The deceased officer has been identified as Commander Kuntal Wadhwa.

On February 26, the Indian Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi had resigned, taking “moral responsibility” for a spate of recent accidents. His resignation came after the deaths of two officers that morning in a fire on the naval submarine, INS Sindhuratna. On August 14, 2013, a massive explosion on board another submarine, INS Sindhurakshak, killed 18 crewmembers and sunk the vessel.

MDL, not the navy, will answer for Friday’s fatal accident on board INS Kolkata. However, with operational safety on naval vessels squarely in the public eye, the navy is gearing for more criticism.

INS Kolkata is the first of three destroyers being built under the so-called Project 15A. The warship was undergoing trials of its fire fighting system, when a gas cylinder filled with fire-inhibiting carbon dioxide accidently discharged its gas, suffocating the personnel in that compartment. While two MDL workers were discharged after treatment, Commander Wadhwa suffocated to death.

In an official release, MDL characterised the accident as “a malfunction in its Carbon Dioxide unit, leading to gas leakage.”

MDL sources say the fire-fighting trials were part of a series of trials being conducted on INS Kolkata’s nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) defensive systems. A team from INS Shivaji, the navy’s engineering hub in Lonavla, was supervising the trials in the Mumbai Port Trust.

The fire fighting system, which is a part of the NBC system, includes sensors in every compartment of the vessel that contains machinery and, therefore, runs the risk of fire. The system also includes carbon dioxide gas cylinders, which discharge the gas when a sensor warns of a fire. On Thursday, when smaller compartments were being checked, the system worked perfectly, say MDL officials. But on Friday, a bank of cylinders discharged unexpectedly, causing the tragedy.

Senior MDL officials tell Business Standard that, notwithstanding the tragedy of a life lost, INS Kolkata remains on track to be delivered to the navy by the end of this month. The destroyer will be formally commissioned into the navy as soon as Defence Minister AK Antony can travel to Mumbai for the ceremony.

The 6,800-tonne INS Kolkata, and its sister ships, INS Kochi and INS Chennai, will be the navy’s most lethal, capable and high-tech warships. They were due to
be commissioned from Aug 2011 to Aug 2013, one vessel each year. However, Project 15A is running three years late, largely because of delays in developing the Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR-SAM), which the DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries are co-developing.

The navy’s Chief of Materials (COM), who briefed Business Standard earlier, says that Project 15A has cost Rs 11,662 crore. That means INS Kolkata and its sister ships will each come in at just under Rs 4,000 crore, a fraction of what would have been paid for a similar warship bought overseas.

The COM claims that the indigenous component of Project 15A is 60 per cent. The fire-fighting system that malfunctioned was developed and supplied by a Mumbai-based company.



That sinking feeling: a litany of warship accidents

January 2011            : INS Vindhyagiri, a frigate, sinks near Mumbai after ramming a freighter

August 2013  :           INS Sindhurakshak, a Kilo-class submarine, sinks and 18 crewmembers killed after a still-unexplained explosion on board

December 2013:       INS Konkan, a minesweeper, suffers extensive interior damage after a fire on board.

December 2013:       INS Talwar, a stealth frigate, rams and sinks a fishing vessel off Maharashtra. The captain is relieved of command.

January 2014            :           INS Airawat, a tank landing ship (LST) runs aground in Visakhapatnam, damaging its propellers. The captain is relieved of command.

February 2014:         INS Sindhuratna, a Kilo-class submarine, suffers a fire on board that kills two officers and injured 7 sailors.





8 comments:

Anonymous said...

THE NAVY ESPECIALLY THE DOCKYARD AND PUBLIC SECTOR SHIPYARDS NEED TO IMPLEMENT THE SAFETY MANGEMENT SYSTEM IN LETTER AND SPIRIT AND INTRODUCE RISK ANALYSIS. WITH HUNDRED OF PRIVATE CONTRACTERSAND THEIR SEMISKILLED LABOUR WORKING IN SHIPS IN REPAIRS OR CONSTRUCTION , CERTIFICATION OF SKILLS AND WORKERS MUST BE MADE MANDATORY. OFFICERS AND DEPT INCHARGES NEED TO PUT IN PLACE PROCEDURES AND CARRY OUT RISK ANALYSIS BEFORE ANY EVOLUTION OR TRIALS ARE UNDERTAKEN AND MEASURES TO AVOID INJURY AND DEATH OF PERSONNEL.

Sanjay Kishore said...

A sad incident. I don't know enough about it, but generalising based on my own experiences, I'd venture to say that, given the details that come into SOPs for things like this, there is likely to have been some lapse somewhere.

But I have faith that is something the organisation itself will go into and correct.

Unduly linking it to the incident on the submarine 'tom-tom' ing something thats been adequately flogged.

Let's let the Navy go about doing their job.

Parthasarathi said...

It is a great tragedy. A young officer and gentleman lost his life. RIP.
But from your blog it is not clear actually what happened ! Few questions are unanswered !
1) Even if one bank of CO2 bottles are discharged then how come the CO2 is discharged inside the CO2 room ? The discharged CO2 should be safely released to atmosphere (outside of the ship) through the relief valves!
2) The pressure pipes must be hydraulically pressure tested. If yes, then how come they got raptured!
3) Inhaling CO2 won't kill you instantly ! It is not toxic like CO !
Something is wrong !

kulari94 said...

Colonel:

Your reporting of the accident with INS Vindhyagiri is inaccurate. INS Vindhyagiri did not ram another ship. INS Vindhyagiri was rammed by another ship after this ship maneuvered to avoid hitting another ship.

Anonymous said...

Col Ajai,

I come to your blog to read a outs different aspects of the Armed Forces which are generally not covered by others. Especially your analysis and recommendations.

Sadly, of late your blog is NOT at all interesting.

Please do raise the standard of your blog.

Anonymous said...

BREAKING NEWS... and the bad luck continues at vizag.. koi havan karao yaar IN ka , nazar uttaro...

captainjohann said...

This incident should wake up Indian Navy now that another mishap has occurred in Vizag where the Nuclear Sub is being constructed. I agree with comment one of Anonymous and also of Parthasarathy which is simple common sense S>O>P. Hope it is not some clever sabotage group operating.

Anonymous said...

Why don't... INS... catalogue... personnel surrounding... attached to assets... before... during... after... incidents... correlate...