Royal Navy aircraft carrier and Falklands flagship sold for scrap after botched auction fails to find a buyer
THE flagship of the British task force to liberate the Falklands is destined for the scrapheap after it was sold to a breakers yard.
INS Viraat, formerly known as HMS Hermes, has reportedly been sold to online Indian ship recycling firm Shree Ram Shipping.
The news comes in the wake of a previous auction by the Indian Navy, which failed to find a single buyer for the ageing warship.
Now the ship is destined to be turned into razor blades and frying pans.
Mukesh Patel, chairman of Shree Ram Shipping, confirmed the news and said: ‘We are now waiting for response from the government agencies who will proceed with the deal.
‘If everything happens as per the procedure we will be towing the ship from Mumbai, where it is presently docked, to Alang Ship Breaking Yard.’
Falklands veteran HMS Hermes was handed over to India in April 1986 in a deal worth around £65m. She was decommissioned in March 2017.
Gosport maritime expert and retired Lieutenant Commander Mike Critchley said: ‘I’m not surprised by the fact they didn’t get any bids for it because once anyone starts to look at the costs to keep an aircraft carrier afloat safely, it’s massive.
‘You need very deep pockets indeed. It’s big sums of money. We have tried it in this country quite a few times. The Belfast, which is on the Thames in London, is a cruiser and needs a lot of money every year to keep her there.
‘So it’s sad but I’m not surprised.’
The ship is the world’s oldest aircraft carrier.
It was commissioned into the Royal Navy on November 18, 1959 – 15 years after she was laid down in June, 1944.
During her time with the Indian Navy, the warship spent 2,250 days at sea and sailed 588,288 nautical miles.
Hermes was deployed as INS Viraat on peace-keeping missions in Sri Lanka in 1988 and the Kargil War in 1999.
Soon after she was decommissioned, plans had emerged for her to be transformed into a floating museum of luxury £90m hotel. But ultimately both proposals failed to gain any traction.
In the UK, Cornish businessman Andy Trish – who was a young naval airman on board the aircraft carrier during the Falklands War in 1982 – put forward a £20m bid to bring the ship back to the UK and turn her into a ‘living museum’.