A decommissioned Indian Navy ship has become part of an environmental project to showcase the country's marine life - offering adventure tourists opportunities for underwater tours of the vessel.
The ship, which has been sunk off the Karnataka coast in the Arabian sea, will serve as an artificial reef and over time become a natural home to weeds, sea plants, fishes and other creatures of the sea.
The ship, Seaward Defence Boat T-54, had guarded the country's maritime borders for 23 years from the time it was commissioned in September 1982.
The 162-tonne vessel, also known as 'The Ever Vigilant', was sunk off Karwar Port January 30. Prior to this, it was brought for "final preparations" to Karwar, where the Indian Navy is developing a major base.
The electrical wiring and the communication system were removed from the ship and traces of oil cleaned from the fuel tanks. The ship was then towed out, mines were fitted on the vessel and detonated, causing it to sink.
"The mines exploded and sea water rushed into the compartmets. After two blasts, the ship started sinking slowly - stern first and then the bow," an official said.
A survey conducted by a diver revealed the vessel was nestled on the seabed.
The area has initially been opened to professional divers as the underwater visibility has to improve to about six metres before it is possible to view the ship from glass-bottomed boats. The ship will also promote scuba diving as a sport.
Being a first of its kind of project for the Indian Navy, a lot of deliberation had gone into the identification of the site, and the planning and execution of the project.
"The weapon systems and most of the ship's machinery were removed after it was decommissioned. For the project, relevant parts of the ship which had to be cut away to give access were carefully photographed and demarcated," an official said describing the preparations before the ship was sunk.
"Moreover, in view of the strict naval guidelines for dismantling and cleaning the ship, all potential contaminants that could adversely effect marine life were removed to make T-54 as environmentally safe as possible," the official added.
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