The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 4 , 2014
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Batteries on sub not past expiry date: Navy

Manoranjan Kumar and Kapish Muwal

New Delhi, March 3: The navy has denied that fire from expired batteries in its submarine, the INS Sindhuratna, killed two officers, leading to the resignation of the navy chief last week.

But it has admitted that it was cannibalising components from some submarines to keep other boats going. The batteries in the INS Sindhuratna were taken from another submarine of the same class, the INS Sindhukesari. The Sindhuratna was being put through trials to examine if it could be made fully operational after a refit when the mishap took place.

A navy source said that a metre-long cable that ran along the starboard (right) wall of the submarine in the third of its nine compartments was found burnt. The navy has not yet been able to establish if that was caused by short-circuit or whether the cable had burnt because of a fire elsewhere.

The source said the two young officers from the electrical branch, Lt Commanders Kapish Muwal and Manoranjan Kumar, ran into the third compartment, pushed the others out and shut its hatches to isolate it. This is standard operating procedure.

The third compartment houses sailors’ bunks, a battery pit and the galley. The panel to the battery pit was checked by the officers who also asked the battery watchkeeper to leave. The officers probably asphyxiated after locking themselves in.

The submarines of the class to which the INS Sindhuratna belongs are powered by 240 lead-acid batteries, each weighing about 80kg. The batteries are procured from two Calcutta-headquartered companies.

Although the navy has operated submarines with batteries that had exhausted their life, this was not the case with the Sindhuratna. Defence ministry sources claimed an indent for three sets of new batteries had been placed in November last year.