On November 26, 2012, in Kattupalli, Chennai, the ‘Ikshak,’ the third of four Survey Vessels (Large) (SVL) being constructed by GRSE/L&T for the Indian Navy, was given its official launching ceremony. During the Launch, which took place at 10:40 hours, the ship established her initial contact with the Bay of Bengal. The Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, VAdm MA Hampiholi, presided over the event. Following the traditions of naval navigation, Smt Madhumati Hampiholi, the spouse of VAdm MA Hampiholi, launched the ship while reciting an invocation from the Atharva Veda. Ikshak, which translates to “Guide,” is the ship’s name. The mission of survey ships, which is to facilitate the safe passage of mariners at sea, is reflected in the name of the ship.
The Ministry of Defense and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), located in Kolkata, signed a contract on October 30, 2018, for building four SVL ships at a total cost of Rs 2435 billion. In accordance with the build plan that GRSE is implementing, the first ship is being built at the GRSE location in Kolkata, and the construction of the next three ships has been subcontracted to M/s L&T Shipbuilding in Kattupalli up to the point where they are being outfitted. On December 5th, 21, at M/s GRSE in Kolkata, the first ship of its class, the ‘Sandhayak,’ was launched for the first time. Nirdeshak is the second ship of the class and was launched on May 26.
To gather oceanographic data, the current Sandhayak Class survey ships will be phased out and replaced by SVL ships equipped with contemporary generation hydrographic equipment. The ships that make up the Survey Vessel (Large) class each have a length of 110 metres, a breadth of 16 metres, a displacement of 3,400 tonnes, and a crew complement of 231.
The ship’s propulsion system is comprised of two Main Engines that are arranged in a twin-shaft arrangement. It is built for a top speed of 18 knots and a cruise speed of 14 knots. The vessel has been outfitted with bow and stern thrusters to improve its manoeuvrability at low speeds, which is necessary for survey activities in shallow water. These ships’ hulls are manufactured from a locally fabricated steel known as DMR 249-A, which the Steel Authority of India Limited produces. This steel was developed in India.
The primary purpose of these vessels would be to carry out detailed coastal and deep-water hydrographic surveys of ports and navigational channels. They would be able to transport up to four Survey Motor Boats and come equipped with an onboard helicopter. Additionally, the ships would gather oceanographic and geophysical data for both military and civilian use during their missions. In the event of an emergency, the ships are able to operate as hospital ships. As a secondary purpose, they can also provide some level of defence, albeit on a very basic level.
Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, L&T and GRSE have made tremendous headway and remain committed to delivering “Ikshak” by October 2023 at the latest. More than 80 per cent of the cost of the Survey Vessels Large will be comprised of locally sourced materials. This would also ensure that Indian industrial units produce huge quantities of defence goods, contributing to creating jobs and enhancing the country’s capacities.
Previous Sandhayak class ships
The Government of India gave its approval in 1973 for the purchase of three brand-new surveying ships to serve as replacements for the three ageing surveying ships known as Investigator, Jamuna, and Sutlej. As a result, the first of the three new surveying ships developed by the Directorate of Naval Design was the INS Sandhayak. This ship was constructed in Calcutta by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, and it was commissioned on February 26, 1981. Prior to 1985, the ships Nirdeshak and Nirupak, both of which belonged to the Sandhayak Class, were given their commissioning ceremonies.
The ship is equipped with two screws, each of which is powered by an engine designed by MAN and built in India by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE). The ship is capable of reaching a top speed of 16.8 knots thanks to these engines.
Nevertheless, the most fuel-efficient speed for the ship is 15 knots, and at that pace, it can travel 6,000 nautical miles without refuelling.