India may turn former British flagship into motorbikes

AHMEDABAD: Scrap metal from what was once the world’s oldest-serving aircraft carrier – and Britain’s flagship during the 1982 Falklands war – could be used to make motorbikes, the firm charged with breaking it down said on Tuesday (Aug 25).

The Shree Ram Group at Asia’s largest ship scrapyard in Alang, Gujarat state, said it had secured the giant vessel in an auction and would take up to a year to break down.

The ship entered Britain’s Royal Navy in 1959 as the HMS Hermes after being laid down in 1944. She was sold the Indian Navy in 1986 and renamed the INS Viraat before serving another 29 years.

Viraat, which means “giant” in Sanskrit, was decommissioned finally in 2017 having sailed more than 1 million km – roughly equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 28 times.

In 1987 then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi reportedly used the ship to holiday on a remote tropical island in the Arabian Sea with his family and friends.

After a solemn decommissioning ceremony in Mumbai in 2017 there were plans to turn the ship into a floating museum and hotel, but they fell through.

Now the steel from the vessel could find another use.

“Once the ship docks at Alang, it will take us around 9 to 12 months to dismantle it and then we shall sell it as scrap to recover the cost,” Shree Ram Group chairman Mukesh Patel told AFP.

“We have been approached by two motorcycle makers for using the steel from the warship to build bikes … But nothing has been finalised yet,” he said.