INS Prahar mishap: Captain found guilty of navigational error, sacked

Five months after Indian Navy warship INS Prahar sank after colliding with Shipping Corporation of India's container vessel MV Rajiv Gandhi off the coast of Goa, the navy has sacked the captain of the warship for navigational error that caused the mishap.

According to a senior official, the navy conducted a court martial of the captain Cdr Yogesh Tripathi and found him guilty of navigational error.

''The commanding officer was tried by court martial and dismissed from naval service. The verdict came about two weeks ago and it is subject to judicial review by the Chief of Naval Staff at the Naval Headquarters,'' the official said. He said Cdr Tripathi, who was in the Navy for 13 years, had confessed to his mistake during the court martial.

''The naval ship had no mechanical defect and was perfectly operational. And the investigations have fixed the responsibility of the mishap on the commanding officer, who was removed from the command immediately after the mishap. Later, the court martial tried him and found him guilty,'' the official said. He claimed that the bridge of the ship was not unmanned at the time of the mishap.

The mishap took place about 10 nautical miles off the Mormugao port around 9.45 pm on April 21 this year. INS Prahar was returning to Mumbai after a routine exercise, while the SCI ship was on her way from Jawaharlal Nehru Port (Mumbai) to Colombo. After the head-on collision, all the 73 personnel aboard the warship were rescued before it sank.

The naval ship swerved to its port side (left) when it came face to face with the container ship, violating navigational norms that two ships coming face to face have to turn to their starboard (right) side to avoid collision. When INS Prahar turned left, it hit the container ship, which according to maritime law, was turning to its right to avoid a collision, expecting that the naval ship to do the same.

''We don't know why the naval ship turned to its port side on coming face to face with our vessel,'' an SCI official said. ''Probably the captain thought that since his ship was smaller and faster than the cargo ship, he could manoeuvre it before the impact. It was a serious navigational error and we have lost INS Prahar. It is a national loss,'' he said and added that high-power small boats and naval ships, at times, made adventurous moves in the sea.

When contacted, naval spokesperson Cdr Abhay Lambhate confirmed the dismissal of the captain of INS Prahar. The warship was a 56-metre long Veer Class missile corvette (Pennant No. K98) commissioned in the navy in 1997.

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