Alappuzha was Kerala’s main port before Kochi became the state’s most important port. Although Alappuzha, which used to be called the ‘Venice of the East’, has lost its maritime luster, the city’s once bustling port is emerging as the face of an Indian Navy ship. Alappuzha, which is known for its beaches, backwaters, lagoons and serene natural beauty, has another attraction as the Navy’s decommissioned Fast Attack Craft (INFAC) T-81 will be on display at the seaside as part of the Alappuzha Heritage project.
When Raja Keshavadas built Alappuzha, the city’s main attraction was the port as well as the extensive sandy beach. Goods from the mountainous regions, including the Kottayam areas, were brought to Alappuzha through Vembanad Lake and from there the cargo was brought to the port by an artificial canal and eventually shipped to foreign countries.
As the coconut industry in Alappuzha began to flourish in the 19th century, the seaport also began to develop as coconut products were exported in large numbers from the port. A sea bridge, used to load and unload cargo from freighters, was built at Alappuzha in 1862. The port of Alappuzha played a central role in stimulating the state’s commercial activities until the emergence of the port. of Kochi at the beginning of the 20th century. . The port of Alappuzha has sunk into oblivion, the coconut sector losing its glory and many industrialists moving to Kochi. Although hope for a revival was rekindled with the arrival of a cargo ship at the port of Alappuzha on October 11, 1989, no other vessel had called since then.
A ship for Alappuzha
Discussions to find a ship for Alappuzha began after the first government of Pinarayi Vijayan decided to set up a port museum as part of the Alappuzha heritage project which was presented by the former finance minister of the ‘State and Former Member of Parliament for Alappuzha TM Thomas Isaac. After varying levels of talks, the Indian Navy decided to return the decommissioned Fast Attack Craft (INFAC) T-81 to the port museum and an agreement to this effect was signed in May 2021.
The ship was brought from Mumbai to Kochi by sea in five days and was taken to Kottayam port in July. The ship was transported to Thaneermukkom in September and later to Alappuzha by road.
The sea bridge, which was an iconic symbol of Alappuzha beach, is in a dilapidated situation. In view of the region’s enormous tourism potential, the state government is preparing a project to build a new sea bridge. As part of the project, the museum, which will be established after obtaining special permission from the Coastal Zone Management Authority, will present the vessel.
The authorities concerned have given the green light to build a two-story museum. The government has also received the green signal for the construction of a maritime bridge after a series of formalities, including an environmental study, spread over three years. The museum will have a ticket booth, food court, perimeter wall, and landscaping, among others. A ramp connecting the ticket office and the ship will also be put in place to facilitate hassle-free movement of visitors. In addition, dozens of plants will be planted in the space between the sea and the ship to prevent soil erosion.
According to the design, the vessel will be secured to the ground using the technique of dry docking and for the moment the vessel is placed on a platform visible to all.
A glimpse into the history of the ship
The INFAC T-81 is the Indian Navy’s second rapid attack craft and the vessel was commissioned into the Navy on June 5, 1999 by the Governor of Goa, Lieutenant-General JFR Jacob. The ship with a maximum speed of 45 knots had on board two officers and 18 sailors during her days of navigation. The ship is equipped with short-range cannons and is used for surveillance, rescue and search operations, among others. It also has the ability to intercept intrusive fast boats.
The INFAC T-81, which was decommissioned at the Mumbai shipyard on January 28, 2021, is designed to navigate shallow water and has a displacement of 60 tons. The vessel, with a length of 25.94 m and a deck of 5.6 m, has an engine room, aft section (aft section), a crew compartment, a captain’s cabin, a living area and a front part (front part).
The Indian Navy had a ship in the name of Alappuzha – INS Alleppey. It should be noted that Alappuzha was previously known by its anglicized nomenclature Alleppey. This minesweeper vessel was purchased from Russia in 1980 and it was customary to name this class of small vessels after small ports. INS Kozhikode and INS Kannur are other minesweeping vessels that bear city names from Kerala. The primary purpose of minesweeping vessels is to flush out sea mines during warfare and require a clear passage for ships. As the ship was purchased from Russia, Navy personnel underwent three years of training in Russia to understand the ship’s operations. The ship was brought by sea from Russia in 45 days, and it was finally decommissioned in March 2015.
It’s a mere coincidence that the first captain of INS Alleppey was Hector Poppen from Alappuzha. Poppen, 76, who retired as captain in 1989, fulfilled his long-held dream of taking the ship to the shores of his hometown when he anchored the ship 1.5 km from the Alappuzha coast on May 11. 1981. He took INS Alleppey to Alappuzha for two days after obtaining special permission from the concerned authorities when he came to Kochi to attend a training session.