Gorshkov: India okays use of asbestos for boiler insulation

More than two months after the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier suffered an embarrassing setback after its boilers malfunctioned during high speed trials in the Barents Sea, India has given a go ahead to the shipyard in charge of the project to use asbestos based insulation as part of the extensive repair package.

The aircraft carrier, which was to be handed over to India this month after a series of delays, suffered yet another roadblock after the insulation on its boilers broke down while the warship was carrying out sea trials, causing damage to critical equipment.

An analysis revealed that the fire-brick insulation that was used on the refurbished warship proved inadequate to handle the high temperatures and broke off. This lead to several media reports in Russia that blamed the Indian Navy for insisting on not using asbestos for insulation. Some reports even claimed that Chinese fire brick insulation was used, leading to a swift denial by Beijing.

However, Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi clarified on Monday that India was never against the use of asbestos-based insulation for the warship's boilers in the first place but that the decision was taken by the contractors who are refitting the old warship.

"The insulation inside the boilers had become misplaced. Initially it (the insulation) had been kept asbestos free, which was a contractual stipulation. We had nothing to do with that decision. It was an internal decision of the supplier," Admiral Joshi said, adding that the Navy became aware of the asbestos issue only after the snag developed during the trials.

The Navy has now decided to give the shipyard a go ahead after it proposed that the asbestos lining would be better. "We have concurred to their proposal that they want to go for asbestos based lining. This being a sealed unit, the environmental degradation factor externally is negligible. So we have concurred," the Navy Chief said.

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