The hope to convert the decommissioned warship 'Viraat' into a museum is fading as the company which purchased it for dismantling has finally started towing it towards its scrap yard at Alang in Gujarat after waiting for nearly three weeks.
Mumbai-based private company Envitech Marine Consultants Pvt Ltd, which last month showed interest in converting the aircraft carrier into a museum, is yet to get a no-objection certificate for the project from the ministry of defence.
The warship, inducted into the Indian Navy in 1987 and decommissioned in 2017, was bought by Shree Ram Group, an Alang-based ship-breaker, for Rs 38.54 crore at an auction in July this year.
"We have started the process of pulling Viraat towards our scrap plot. It was 3,000 feet away in the sea and now it is being brought nearer. It is still 1,500 feet away," Shree Ram Group Chairman Mukesh Patel told PTI on Saturday.
Further towing of the vessel towards the scrap plot will be done during the next high tide, he said.
The company which has shown interest in buying it and converting it to a museum is still not able to procure the NOC from the defence ministry and is working on it, he said.
"The company had asked us if the vessel can be salvaged. I replied that it is possible with the latest technology, but it will be very difficult and too costly," Patel said.
Patel had earlier sought Rs 100 crore and the Centre's NOC to sell the warship to Envitech Marine to avoid any legal problem in future due to the deal.
Asked about monetary negotiations, Patel said the money part comes into picture only if the company is able to get the NOC from the defence ministry to convert the warship into a museum.
V K Sharma, the managing director of Envitech Marine, was not available for comments.
He had earlier expressed confidence about getting the NOC from the Centre so that Viraat can be preserved.
Sharma had claimed that he received support from the Goa government in his patriotic endeavour.
Viraat, the world's longest serving warship, is the second aircraft carrier slated to be broken down in India.
In 2014, another decommissioned warship, Vikrant, was dismantled in Mumbai.
The 70-year-old aircraft carrier, in its earlier avatar, had won the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982 for the Royal British Navy.
Viraat weighs about 27,800 tonnes and served in the British Navy as 'HMS Hermes' from November 1959 to April 1984.
After undergoing refurbishment, the vessel was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1987.