In operational reviews undertaken post the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Indian Navy assessed that continued basing of a growing fleet in Mumbai Harbour faced challenges like congestion in the shipping lanes, density of fishing traffic and range of enemy missiles. Alternative locations for a base for the Western Fleet were evaluated, including Thiruvanathapuram, Kannur and Tuticorin.
In the early 1980s, the then Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Oscar Stanley Dawson visualized a modern and state of the art Naval Base at Karwar, sandwiched between the craggy hills of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea and located about 120 km south of Goa. In 1985, CCPA accepted the necessity of a third major Naval Base at Karwar, developed as Project Seabird. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister, Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.
Karwar Naval Base is situated at Binaga Bay near Karwar in Karnataka. The base is spread over 5.14km of break water. It lies in the middle of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea in the west. The base receives natural protection and a strategic depth from deep bays. The hilly terrain around the base provides good camouflage to ground facilities.
Ms Redecon-Nedeco Consortium undertook project consultancy in 1989 and the report for Phase I was approved a year later. The original Master Plan, envisaged infrastructure and facilities for basing 50 ships and submarines, 40 Yard craft and associated facilities. Scope for future expansion was kept for 100 ships and submarines and 50 yard craft. Stating operational difficulties, CCPA accorded sanction for what would be called a “Truncated Phase I” in 1995. The requirements were reduced into to cater for berthing of only 10 ships and submarines along with 10 support and yard craft. Facilities for these were envisioned and created. Land acquisition and Marine Works were completed in the year 2000 and 2004 respectively.
Spread over an area of 45 Square Kilometer and 23 kilometer of coastal line on the Arabian Sea, Phase I was executed with INS Kadamba being commissioned on 31 May 2005. Over the next few years, support units including a Naval Ship Repair Yard(NSRY), A Communication Centre, a Transport Pool and INHS Patanjali, a Naval Hospital, were also commissioned.
The headquarters for Flag Officer Commanding Karnataka Naval Area and Naval Officer’s Mess was inaugurated in the year 2008. A Civilian township at Amadalli as also a Sports Complex and Swimming Pool at the Naval base were inaugurated in 2011. This finally completed civil works of
Phase I. Even with the Phase I facilities, the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is based at Karwar. Other major vessels include Survey Ships, Landing Ships and A Logistics Support Ship.
The Karwar Naval Base boasts of a Ship Lift facility at the Naval Ship Repair Yard that was inaugurated in September 2006. It can handle 10,000 tonne ships. The Naval Base has a modern direct fueling facility for ships. The facility consists of a 7-km-long pipeline connecting the IOCL terminal at Baithkol with the Naval base.
Phase II Consultancy for Phase II was awarded to M/s SKM, Australia in the year 2010. Development of this phase commenced the next year. It envisages doubling the existing facilities at the base. It would also involve building a naval air station with a 6000 foot runway. The CCS approved Phase IIA in 2012. Environmental clearance for Phase IIA and IIB was granted in June 2014 on a priority basis. M/s AECOM India has been appointed as the Project Management Consultant in November 2014. INS Vajrakosh, an advanced missiles and weapons handling facility was commissioned in September 2015.