India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the acquisition of a Polar Research Vessel for the Ministry of Earth Sciences at a total cost of Rs. 1051.13 crore (USD 171 million) within a period of 34 months.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences felt necessary to have the country’s own polar research vessel considering the need to sustain two Indian research bases in Antarctica (Maitri and Bharti); dovetailing research initiatives in the Southern Ocean domain with those in the proximal regions of the Antarctic continent; widen the thrust on Arctic research disciplines undertaken through Indian Station Himadri, and to provide a suitable research platform for other tropical sea programmes.
Such a vessel, it is envisaged, can not only perform dual functions, research and logistics, in the polar region but can also serve as a research platform for scientists to undertake scientific research in the ocean realm including the Southern Ocean.
Indian Antarctic expeditions have been undertaken every year onboard ice-class vessels/ice-breakers chartered from the international market. These vessels have largely been cargo ships capable of transporting men and material and unable to serve as a research platform. With increased demand for cargo vessels and their dwindling availability, the charter charges of these vessels have been escalating over the years.
Press Release; Image: AWI