The North Jetty of the Southern Naval Command (SNC) will be rebuilt on a bigger scale by October 2024 to berth the augmented fleet of naval ships that operate from the Naval Base in Kochi, Vice Admiral M.A. Hampiholi, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, has said.

This is in keeping with the induction of next-generation offshore patrol vessels, shallow water craft, and other ships, and the impending replacement of the existing cadet training ships in two to three years. Altogether, the operational availability of 80% of the 17 big ships based in Kochi was made available, thanks to joint efforts by the Navy and civilian defence personnel, he told the media onboard INS Tir, a ship of the Navy’s First Training Squadron, on Saturday.

He added that the Navy was awaiting the Centre’s nod to place order for the third aircraft carrier (following the construction of indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant at the Cochin Shipyard).

On concerns about the increasing presence of Chinese vessels in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Vice Admiral Hampiholi said ships of extra-regional navies were being tracked with maritime domain awareness (MDA). On the fate of eight ex-Indian Navy personnel who were awarded death penalty by a Qatari court, he said efforts were on at the highest level to ensure their return to India.

He said women sailors recruited under the Agnipath scheme were deployed across 29 trades in the Navy. The Navy is planning circumnavigation of the globe with a solo-woman crew member.

Regarding suicides by naval personnel, including a recent instance of a woman Agniveer from Kerala taking her life, the Vice Admiral said armed forces were a microcosm of society. However, the divisional system in the Navy has been strengthened to lessen stress and to prevent such incidents, with around 15 personnel being placed under a supervisory officer. Regular counselling sessions too are done.

On coordination with fishers, including in intelligence gathering, the Vice Admiral said fishers were the eyes and ears of the Navy. “We have regular campaigns to sensitise them on their personal safety and other security issues. There is also a mechanism to report and forewarn of anything unusual,” he added.

He said the Navy had been cleaning the Venduruthy Channel once a month, although it was beyond the force’s core tasks. In addition, mangroves, tree saplings, and Miyawaki forests are being planted on the coast.

Rear Admiral Upal Kundu, officiating Chief of Staff of the Southern Naval Command, and Cdr. Atul Pillai, Defence PRO, Kerala, too were present.