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British scouring Kerala for teakwood
George Iype in Kochi | November 21, 2003 14:59 IST
Britain is in search of a large quantity of teak from Kerala to refit an aged British warship.
A team of experts from the Royal Navy, along with their Indian agents, toured several plantations and depots across Kerala last week and placed an order for 7,000 cubic feet of teakwood.
Senior state forest department officials said that it is for the first time after Independence that the British Navy is scouting for teak from India. The British team is said to have zeroed in on Kerala as the state has some of the best and largest teak plantations in the country.
The search began a few months back after the British government put in a request with the Union government. The Union Ministry of Commerce processed the request.
The British have not revealed which ship is to be rebuilt but one of the Indian agents disclosed it is the 190-year-old 1,440-ton frigate HMS Trincomalee, which was originally built using Kerala teak in 1815. At present, it is in the process of being overhauled to extend its life by another 200 years.
A forest department official who accompanied the British told rediff.com that the team were "impressed with the variety of teak available in Kerala."
Teak traders explain the reason for the British interest in Kerala teak. "When they ruled India, huge quantities of teak were exported for their naval requirements. Naturally, Kerala teak would be best suited to refit aged British ships," T K Nair, a teakwood trader, told rediff.com.
Historians say the quality of teak grown in Kerala's northern Malabar region prompted the British to start a teak plantation named the Conollys in 1850. British shipbuilders purchased teak from this plantation. One British expert James Kyd once observed: "Malabar teak is certainly the best timber in the world for ship building."
HMS Trincomalee was constructed entirely from teak from the forests of the Malabar region.
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