On its last day in service on March 6 after three decades of sailing, the fate of INS Viraat, the oldest aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, remains unclear as to whether it will be converted into a luxury hotel or will it head to the scrapyard to be broken up.
The Defence Ministry is yet to take a decision on the proposal from the Government of Andhra Pradesh (A.P.) to convert it into an entertainment hub in Visakhapatnam through a joint venture with the Government of India.
The Navy is keen on an early decision to avoid INS Viraat meeting the same fate as its predecessor Vikrant, which eventually went to the scrapyard.
Responding to a call from the Defence Ministry last year to all coastal States to put forward proposals on INS Viraat, A.P. has proposed to convert it into an offshore luxury hotel and build a Marina along with an entertainment zone around it. The proposal for joint development has already been communicated to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar by A.P. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
In a follow up to this, Mr. Naidu, in February-end, had written to Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma for “in-principle” approval to set up the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which would execute the project.
Mr. Naidu has stated that his government intends to take forward the legacy of INS Viraat by making it a world-class project on the lines of other global projects like USS Alabama, USS Constellation, and HMS Belfast.
“In view of above, your intervention is requested in giving an in-principle approval for setting up an SPV with a 50:50 sharing between the Government of India and the Government of Andhra Pradesh so as to take forward the prestigious and unique project at Visakhapatnam, which is fast becoming a prominent destination for foreign tourists,” Mr. Naidu requested the Union Ministers in the letters dated February 27. The overall project is expected to cost about ₹1,000 crore and is estimated to entail an annual maintenance of ₹150 crore.
INS Viraat, weighing 27,800 tonnes, is the world’s oldest aircraft carrier in service.