Fortuna:Bahamas-flag bulker aground in Norway

Fortuna, Bahamas flag,  imo 9051210 is now safely docked in Hellvik with no oil leakage. A small hole in the hull.The ship was carrying 3200 tons of white shingle beach gravel for Norwegian Edelsplitt. The load was from Kjøge in Denmark as an aggregate for asphalt.

- We have about 150 shipments per year. The last accident was  Easter Sunday in 1999. recalls CEO Anders Hovland of Norwegian Edelsplitt, 
"Production of stone in the form of crushed stone or gravel, for road construction, in particular aggregate in asphalt, as well as concrete and ceramics industry."

"Fortuna" was built in 1993, is owned by Rederi AS Misje and operated by Hagland Shipping AS in Haugesund.

9051210 FORTUNA C6YU2 General Cargo Ship 3735 1993
Ship Type: Cargo
Year Built: 1993
Length x Breadth: 87 m X 13 m
Gross Tonnage: 2446, DeadWeight: 3709 t
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 11.9 / 10.6 knots
Flag: Bahamas [BS] 
Call Sign: C6YU2
IMO: 9051210, MMSI: 311045200

Rowan Viking: gas extinguished near drilling rig

The flare on the crippled North Sea oil platform at the centre of a gas leak has extinguished itself.

[March 29]A flame is still burning nearby Rowan Viking (IMO 8769664) drilling rig  in the stack above  Elgin PUQ (Process/Utilities/Quarters) platform.from which gas has been leaking for three days.

Experts expressed concern that escaping gas could connect with the naked flame in the flare stack and explode.

. Total, France’s largest oil company, said a cloud of escaped gas at sea level was at a much lower height than the flare on the Elgin platform, 150 miles off Aberdeen.

A spokesman said the flare was left burning when the platform was evacuated on Sunday.

He said the flare had been doing an important job taking excess gas off the production platform.

It was hoped it would burn itself out but the oil giant did not know when that would happen.

A cloud of escaped gas was reported to have bubbled up through the sea and was surrounding the base of the platform.

Total, which operates the Elgin platform, said the situation was stable but it had not yet been able to identify the source of the leak.   “Apparently the sea was ‘boiling’ with gas below the rig, which suggests a subsea problem, rather than a problem on the installation.”

A sheen of between two and 23 tonnes of gas condensate, measuring six nautical miles in length, has been reported on the water nearby, and Total has activated its Oil Pollution Emergency Plan.

Rig Name: Rowan Viking
Rig Manager: Rowan
Rig Owner: Rowan
Competitive Rig: Yes
Rig Type: Jackup
Jackup Type: Independent Leg Cantilever
Rig Design: Keppel Fels KFELS N Class
Rated Water Depth: 430 ft
Drilling Depth: 35,000 ft

Classification: DNV
Rig Design: Keppel Fels KFELS N Class
Built By: Keppel Fels  at the Keppel FELS, Singapore shipyard
Delivery Year: 2010
Flag: Panama


Highland Fortress: Elgin PUQ platform leak traced

The French fuel group said it had traced the leak to a gas pocket in a rock formation 4km (2.5 miles) below the seabed but 1km above the gas reservoir being tapped by the Elgin platform, which was evacuated on March 25 when the leak was discovered.

Total called in an exploration ship carrying the remote-controlled mini-sub, which is equipped with cameras, March 27 in an effort to assess the underwater leak on the rig.
The ship, the Highland Fortress, was standing by March 28 outside a two-nautical mile (3.7 kilometres) exclusion zone around the platform.
“It is currently on standby, should the need to deploy arise,” the Total spokesman said.


USS Ponce (LPD-15) : Afloat Forward Staging Base

"We are moving four more mine sweeps to the theater," [Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month]. "That'll make eight. We are moving airborne mine countermeasure helicopters. That'll take us to eight in theater. And ... those, working with the British mine sweeps there, which we exercise with frequently, sets us up a little bit there."
Each of the ships - the USS Sentry (MCM 3), USS Devastator (MCM 6), USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Warrior (MCM 10) - carries a crew of about 60. All are equipped to detect and neutralize mines.
The Navy this month also sent to the region four additional MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters, which also have the capability to locate and destroy mines.
The Navy will also be sending the USS Ponce (LPD-15) to the region in the next few months to act as a floating staging base. Manned by a military and civilian crew, the vessel will provide refueling, resupply and maintenance operations for minesweepers, aircraft and patrol craft at sea in the region
The retrofit will transform the long-serving amphibious transport dock ship into an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB-I) with a habitability structure to support a combined Navy/civil service mariner crew. Slated for deployment this summer, the modernized Ponce will provide maritime mobility, support and refueling capabilities in the U.S. Central Command Theater, an area that includes the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.
[January 27]Lt. Cmdr. Mike Kafka, a spokesman for the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command, declined to elaborate on the floating base’s purpose or to say where, exactly, it will be deployed in the Middle East. Other Navy officials acknowledged that they were moving with unusual haste to complete the conversion and send the mothership to the region by early summer.


Stolt Valor: Fire - cargo was Ether

March 27 - The chemical tanker  was carrying methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).   The involvement of MTBE will ring alarm bells as it is the same cargo that exploded on the Bow Mariner in 2004, but the Valor is a larger size of chemical tanker.
LONDON, March 21, 2012 - Stolt Tankers B.V., a subsidiary of Stolt-Nielsen Limited (Oslo Børs: SNI) and owner and operator of MT Stolt Valor, reported today that the fire on the ship has been contained.  One crew member is still missing.
The ship is under tow approximately 45 miles off the coast of Qatar. 
[March 16]The tanker Stolt Valor, which was carrying 13,000 metric tons of a substance called “volatile” and “flammable” on the Environmental Protection Agency website, issued a distress call about 2 a.m. local time. The tanker was 48 nautical miles southeast of Farsi Island, The Stolt Valor spent two months anchored off Somalia after being hijack by pirates in September 2008 before later being released. Guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53),  rescued Filipino mariners when their ship, the Hong Kong-flagged motor vessel (MV) Stolt Valor, caught fire in the Arabian Gulf... The 24 rescued Filipino mariners were in good health and did not require medical assistance.  John Paul Jones is assigned to Combined Maritime Forces' Commander, Task Force 152, conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf. 

9274290 STOLT VALOR VRZP5 Chemical/Oil Tanker 25269 2004

Stolt Fleet website: M/T Stolt Valor 2004    25,269 T/C by Stolt Tankers Hong Kong

Owner: Stolt Nielsens Rederi
Haugesund, Norway
Manager: Stolt Tankers
Rotterdam, Netherlands

Q88 - INTERTANKO Standard Tanker Questionnaire (Ver. 3)
Vessel's name: Stolt Valor Last updated: Mar 01, 2012
Ex-name(s): Not Applicable IMO number: 9274290
Flag: Liberia Call sign: D5AF4
Port of Registry: Monrovia Summer DWT: 25269 MT
Type of vessel: Chemical Built: Feb 13, 2004
Type of hull: Double Hull Owner: STOLT VALOR B.V.
Class Society: Nippon Kaiji Kyokai Operator: Stolt Tankers BV


Rena: Captain Mauro Balomanga pleads guilty

The captain and second officer of a cargo ship that ran aground on a New Zealand reef last year have pleaded guilty to mishandling the ship and trying to cover up their responsibility for the environmental disaster.
The unidentified suspects, both Philippine nationals, were in charge of the Liberian-flagged Rena when it tore into a reef in the North Island's pristine Bay of Plenty October 5, 2011.
The wreck dumped 400 tons of fuel oil and killed thousands of fish and seabirds. New Zealand authorities call it the country's worst maritime disaster.
Both defendants pleaded guilty February 29 of charges of operating the ship in a dangerous manner and altering ship documents. They also pleaded guilty to discharging dangerous substances.
They will be sentenced on May 25 when the court will publicly identify the suspects.

Earlier, Captain Mauro Balomanga and second officer of the wrecked cargo ship Rena were set to appear in the Tauranga District Court facing a number of charges relating to the disaster.
The 44-year-old captain and navigation officer, 37, both Filipinos, face charges they "wilfully attempted to pervert the course of justice" by altering the ship's document after the grounding.
The captain faces four charges and the second officer three charges.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.
The charges were laid under the Crimes Act
They have also been charged with offences under the Maritime Transport Act and Resource Management Act - where the heaviest penalties are two years' prison and a $300,000 fine.
They are due to appear in court on February 29.
The container ship ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef, off the coast of Mt Maunganui, last October 5.Seventy-one containers were recovered this week, bringing the total to 625. Another 17 containers have been located but are yet to be recovered.

Iman: at Tartous with Russian Spetsnaz vets

MOSCOW. March 19 (Interfax-AVN) - The Russian Black Sea Fleet's Iman tanker with an anti-terrorist squad aboard is on a mission off Syria, and the Russian Equator reconnaissance ship is operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea Fleet Staff told Interfax-AVN more.

"The Iman medium seagoing tanker has successfully sailed from Sevastopol to the Syrian cost. It is staying at the Tartous port to perform its mission. Marines make up the anti-terrorist squad based on the tanker," the Staff said.
Russian Chariot had 4 armed guards on board, Russian Spetsnaz vets 

“Like any other civilian support vessel taking part in the counter-piracy operation, this tanker [Iman]is carrying security units that will not allow pirates to seize this tanker or any other civilian vessel in the Gulf of Aden in the event of an attack,” 
 . It is unclear why the ship is docked 8,000 kilometers from the piracy area, off the coast of Somalia.
As violence has increased in Syria, Russia has rotated its Navy ships through Tartous, reportedly in case they are needed for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria. 

"The Equator special-purpose ship is also performing a Mediterranean mission. Over the past 45 days, the Black Sea Fleet Equator reconnaissance ship has covered the distance of several thousands miles in the rough seas while accomplishing its tasks," the Staff said. [below]

The Iman "replaced the Ivan Bubnov large seagoing tanker, which had been sent to Syria for demonstrating the Russian presence in the turbulent region and possible evaluation of Russian citizens," the Staff said. The Ivan Bubnov was also anchored in the Tartous port. Later, a Defense Ministry spokesman said the mission of the ship, the Iman, is to fuel Russian ships patrolling the Gulf of Aden. Russia, Mr. Assad's principal international backer, also reiterated its call for Damascus to agree to a two-hour-a-day humanitarian truce.

Gray vessel, possibly part of the bunkering fleet of the Laskaridis family in Eastern Europe 
IMAN - Bitumen Tanker - Ex:Dalnerechensk. Build: 1986 Rauma-Repola. 6,237 dwt. Owners: Laskarides Shipping

IMO: 6617427
Flag: Russia
Technical Data
Vessel type: Oil Products Tanker
Gross tonnage: 3,359 tons
Summer DWT: 4,471 tons

7724019 IVAN BOBROV UBKF2 General Cargo Ship 3182 1978

Name: Ivan Bobrov
IMO: 7724019
Flag: Russia
MMSI: 273333020
Callsign: UBKF2
Former name(s):
- Hans Lehmann (Until 2007 Aug 03)
Technical Data
Vessel type: Cargo
Gross tonnage: 2,359 tons
Summer DWT: 3,182 tons
Length: 95 m
Beam: 18 m
Draught: 3.2 m

Administrative Information
Home port: Arkhangelsk
Class society: Russian Maritime Shipping Register
Build year: 1978
Builder*: Jj Sietas Schiffswerft
Hamburg, Germany
Owner: Trans Nao Shipping
Narjan Mar, Russia
Manager: Trans Nao Shipping
Narjan Mar, Russia
INTSOK, The Norwegian Oil and Gas Partners has in co-oporation with Russian and Norwegian oil companies, supply industries and proffessional organisations established the project for partnership between Russian and Norwegian oil and gas insdustries. 

The Ekvator special-purpose ship is also performing a Mediterranean mission. Over the past 45 days, the Black Sea Fleet Equator reconnaissance ship has covered the distance of several thousands miles in the rough seas while accomplishing its tasks," 
Moma Class Intelligence Ship
Russian Designations:
SSV (Communications Ship) and
GS (Hydrographic Survey)
Polnocny, Gdansk
Intelligence Gathering Ship
(some serve as hydrographic survey vessels)
Year Adopted:
Number in Class:
28 ships total
(production from 1968-1974)
1,260 tons (Standard)
1,540 tons (Full Load)
Operational Status:
Russia: Still in Active Service
2x Quadruple SA-N-5 Grail launchers*
2x Twin 12.7mm machine guns**
*only in some ships, 16 missiles carried (32 on the Rybachiy)
**only on oceanographic research ship Rybachiy
Sensor Suite:
2 x 'Don-2' navigational radars
2 x Zgoda/Sulzer 6TD48 diesel engines delivering 3,600 hp to two shafts
41-120 Officers and Sailors depending on mission
240 feet, 5 inches 
(73.3 meters)
12 feet, 6 inches
(3.8 meters)
35 feet, 5 inches
(10.8 meters)
Maximum Speed:
17 knots
Range: 8,700 Nautical miles at 11 knots



Ekaterinburg:-k-84 Vitko confirms missiles aboard

 Fire in Murmansk on nuclear submarine: Deputy Commander of the Northern Fleet, Vice Admiral Aleksander Vitko, has confirmed  that the submarine was brought into dock outside Murmansk without first having the weapons removed.  Sparks from welding were reported to have set fire to wooden scaffolding which spread to the rubber acoustic coating on the submarine’s hull. If any of the torpedoes had exploded, it is likely that they could have set off the fuel in the ballistic missiles or damaged the nuclear reactors.



Gelso M: shipwreck's 300 tons of oil recovery starts

The recovery of fuel Gelso M, the tanker aground on the rocks of Syracuse on March 10, I finally started. After the first inspection where it was recovered the black box, the engineers have started work. The first phase includes the refurbishment of stranded floats to contain any spillage into the sea of ​​about 300 tons of fuel and taking samples of water near the launch scafo.Le environmental groups, however, the alarm pollution.




Chariot: now anchored in Dubai after Iran call

Having delivered her cargo of munitions to Syria, the Chariot went on to Turkey. Data from the IHS Fairplay shipping information service show that the Chariot called at Turkey’s Iskenderun Explosives Anchorage, then sailed through the Bosphorus and in late January called at the Ukrainian port of Illichevsk. The Chariot then headed back into the Mediterranean, transited the Suez Canal, rounded the Arabian Peninsula, passed through the Strait of Hormuz, and, arriving about Feb. 29, anchored for 33 hours at the Iranian port of Assaluyeh.

In the eyes of the Russian government, this counts as business as usual. Whether the U.S. and European Union would view it so casually is a different matter. Assaluyeh, located in Iran’s Bushehr Province, is one of seven Iranian ports served by an Iranian port operator, Tidewater Middle East Co., which has been blacklisted by the U.S. and EU as owned or controlled by the proliferation and terror-linked Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. According to the U.S. Treasury, Tidewater “has been used by the IRGC for illicit shipments,” and its Shahid Rajaee container terminal at another Iranian port, Bandar Abbas, “has played a key role in facilitating the Government of Iran’s weapons trade.”

 Chariot had been hired, by parties who did not want to be named, on a three-month time charter, starting at the end of November and extending until the end of February. That would imply that the same nameless charterer who dispatched the Chariot to Syria had also dispatched her to Iran.    Chariot’s cargo for Iran was all “legal” and consisted of two Ukrainian electrical generators, plus “general cargo.”

But she paused at Pt. Said Egypt from February 6 and passed through Strait of Hormuz on February 27


Gaz Explorer: Syria gets LPG only from Naftomar

  Vessel's Details
Ship Type: Lpg tanker
Year Built: 2010
Length x Breadth: 120 m X 20 m
Gross Tonnage: 9126, DeadWeight: 10014 t
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 9.2 / 6.4 knots
Flag: Panama [PA] 
Call Sign: 3EUD2
IMO: 9506150, MMSI: 354588000

GAZ EXPLORER SP/FR 2010 Pa 9.103 2 -48 5

Behind the white-washed walls and leafy treetops of Naftomar's office in Athens, the leading figure in this trade is a man described by his peers as a Syrian national, with links to Greece's shipping elite and ties to Lebanon. Talal Zein founded Naftomar in Beirut and the trading house has since grown to dominate the heating fuel business in the east Mediterranean, with a fleet of more than 20 vessels. Ship tracking data shows one of the most recent deliveries to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banias arriving aboard Naftomar's "Gaz Explorer" tanker.
Naftomar is  the only party supplying Syria with LPG at the moment.   International sanctions against Syria do not apply to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for humanitarian reasons. "We would tend to feel that it is unfair to deny such a basic commodity as LPG to consumers as part of a political statement. Currently there is no embargo to supply LPG to Syria which we believe is for humanitarian reasons," Naftomar director J.C. Heard said in a statement U.S. national J.C. Heard as a commercial director at the company. Heard said: "We have a term arrangement to supply LPG to Syria and We hope that the situation improves in Syria and that LPG can continue to be supplied to meet the needs of the general public." At current market prices, Naftomar's LPG business with Syria is worth around $55 million a month. In Syria, OIL FIRMS CUTTING TIES International sanctions have halted Syrian oil exports since September 2011, stretching budget revenues. Attacks on pipelines by rebels have also almost idled Syrian refineries and made it more dependent than ever on foreign deliveries. Syria consumed some 840,000 tonnes of LPG in 2009,. Other oil firms, including the world's biggest trader Vitol and Italy's oil and gas firm Eni say they have no relations with Syria. Market participants familiar with their business say they will not deal with Syria for fear of being associated with its rulers. Sytrol, the Syrian oil company responsible for fuel imports and exports, was placed on a U.S. blacklist last summer and the European Union followed suit in December. The Syrian central bank is also blacklisted. As a result, difficulties processing payments have prevented even willing oil firms from doing business with Syria.

A source familiar with Syria's LPG business said Naftomar can keep up deliveries because it is dealing with state-owned, Damascus-based distributor Mahrukat. Also called the Syrian Company for the Storage and Distribution of Petroleum Products, it does not yet feature on the sanctions lists. This week, a U.S. House committee voted to impose new sanctions on Syria's energy sector which would effectively ban the delivery of refined petroleum products. [ID:nL2E8E784F] Sytrol and Mahrukat were not available to comment. A cold snap in the Mediterranean region, which sent temperatures to record lows last month, has caused LPG prices to rise [ID:nL5E8E1BD7]. Samir Nashir, from the executive council of the Syrian National Council, representing the opposition, said he believed there are many opposition areas that have been blocked from receiving fuel, electricity, water and humanitarian assistance. "This is one of the group punishments against areas that have flared up with protests against the regime," he said. "There are businessmen that are backing away from the regime but others whose wealth was made by their relationship with the regime so they are dependent on it. They will defend this regime to the very end and we won't be able to convince them to change this. Their end will come along with the regime." 


GELSO M: shipwreck has full bunkers

Gelso M has bunkers with over 22,800 liters of fuel oil , 85 cubic meters of gas oil and 190 cubic meters of fuel oil on board

[earlier]Italian naval helicopters have safely transferred ashore the crew of the Gelso M, an oil/chemical tanker which grounded in severe storm conditions near the Sicilian port of Augusta earlier today. The vessel was carrying no cargo at the time of the incident. The crew are uninjured and there is no pollution. 
The helicopters are mobilising from the nearby Italian Naval Base at Catania. There were 19 crew on board the vessel. 
Gelso M is owned by Augusta Due of Rome. Augusta Due has signed a salvage contract with a leading international salvage contractor, SMIT Salvage from Rotterdam. SMIT are being assisted by the Italian salvor Augustea. A large salvage tug, the 160 tonnes bollard pull Carlo Magno, is already on scene. 
Gelso M

Built in 2008
18,000 tonnes deadweight
Vessel left Venice in ballast, to load cargo at Augusta, on the eastern coast of Sicily.
Name: Gelso M 
Call sign: TCTB6 
Owner: Verimar Chemical Ltd - Italy 
Ship manager: Augusta Due Srl - Rome/Italy 
Gross tonnage: 11250 GT 
Home port: Gatana 
Flag: Turkey 
Build: 2008

Syracuse, March 10 (Adnkronos / Ign) - downpours and wind gusts of up to one hundred kilometers per hour. And 'alert weather in Sicily. Particularly affected the eastern part of the island with schools closed in Catania, Messina and Syracuse.
Precisely because of bad weather, around 9 o'clock this morning a merchant ship was stranded near Syracuse, near Punta Santa Panagia. On board the 'Gelso M.', 150 meters long, 19 crew, rescued by two Coast Guard helicopters and a Navy Catania. Given the impossibility of steering the ship, which was directed to Augusta, the commander ordered the abandonment of the unit. Can not even use the life-saving equipment on board because of the position of the ship aground.
The weather and sea conditions, with winds now up to 40 knots and rough seas, are in decline.


Mikonos Warrior, Mire: tankers to Kharg, Iran

Nikolas P. Tsakos

Mr. Tsakos is the sole shareholder of 
Tsakos Energy Management Limited
Peter Fu Chong Cheng
, Kuo International
Elias Gotsis, Eurotankers, Ltd.
The Mykonos Warrior, capable of hauling 1 million barrels, was scheduled to arrive March 8 at Kharg Island, George Vakirtzis, the general manager of Polembros Shipping Ltd., which owns the vessel said. It will load under a contract that is excluded from sanctions agreed to by EU leaders in January, he said by phone from Piraeus, Greece,

Kuo Oil Ltd., the Singapore trader that the U.S. censured in February 2012 for trading with Iran, has booked a fuel-oil shipment from the Persian Gulf nation for loading in March, shipping data show.
Closely held Kuo Oil hired the Mire to load 80,000 tons from Bandar Mahshahr on March 12 for delivery to Singapore, according to four shipbrokers, including a unit of Clarkson Plc (CKN), the world’s largest. The Liberian-flagged vessel is anchored in the northern Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.

The latest sanctions against Iran have targeted banking, shipping, oil transactions, ports, non- oil trade, gold, petrochemicals and energy ventures, complicating Iran’s commercial ties to the outside world.
Current U.S. law prohibits insurance or reinsurance for refined petroleum sales to Iran. Iran, the second-largest crude oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has few refineries and imports gasoline. 

Asked whether the American Club may have an exemption from U.S. sanctions, John Sullivan, a U.S. Treasury Department spokesman, said in an e-mail, “I cannot comment on licenses or possible enforcement actions.”

The following table shows tankers scheduled to load crude and oil products from Iran reported so far this month, according to shipbroker reports and data. Volumes are in thousand tons. Some bookings are provisional:

Vessel            Volume   Loading    Discharge
Mykonos Warrior     130    March 9    Mundra
Olympic Faith       130    March 8    Vizag
Fortune Elephant    265    March 3    Onsan
Ruby IV             260    March 3    Taiwan
Green Warrior        80    Feb. 26    New Mangalore
Takamine            265    Feb. 24    China
Xin Tong Yang       265    Feb. 22    China
Maharaja Agrasen    130    Feb. 18    Mumbai
Ocean Odyssey        80    February   East (Condensate)

Oil Products
Vessel            Volume   Loading    Discharge   Cargo
Mire                 80    March 12   Singapore   Fuel oil
Challenge Prospect   35    March 10   Dalian      Naphtha
Brizo                80    February   China       Fuel oil

The Mire loaded crude oil from Nov. 19 to 21, 2011 at the Syrian port of Baniyas 
The Mire, like many international oil tankers, uses American insurance, is registered in Liberia and flies under a Liberian flag. The Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry ordered the Mire's owners to desist from delivering the oil to Iran.   But the owners ignored the order and discharged the shipment in Iran before eventually returning to the United Arab Emirates. 

Liberia issued a notice of violation against the Mire's owner, Eurotankers Inc. of Greece, in accordance with Liberian civil-penalty procedures.    The Treasury Department was able to get the Mire's insurance and registration pulled 


Chariot: and sub K-152 bound for India

Alleged Russian arms ship and Russian nuclear-powered attack sub K-152 are both headed for India. India will become the world's sixth operator of a nuclear-powered submarine next month when Russia's K-152 Nerpa attack vessel reaches the country's shores ahead of its formal induction into the Indian Navy.

The submarine, christened INS Chakra, is expected to reach the Indian shores, with its home base as Visakhapatnam, anytime in March, according to navy officers here.

The other global naval powers operating nuclear-powered submarines are the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.

The attack submarine was handed over to the Indian Navy by Russia at a ceremony in the Far Eastern Primorye territory on Jan 23.

Codenamed Akula-II by NATO, the Project 971 Shchuka-B class vessel will be on a 10-year lease with the Indian Navy till 2022 under a contract worth over $900 million signed in mid-1990.

Under the deal, Russia trained Indian submariners on operating the Nerpa for over a month in the Pacific Ocean ahead of its handing over.

With a displacement of over 8,000 tonnes, the vessel can touch a maximum speed of 30 knots and can operate at a maximum depth of 600 meters.

The vessel can lurk in the deep sea without having to surface for 100 days waiting for its prey to appear and to strike hard at will.

Manned by a 73-member crew, the vessel is armed with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes.

The Indian Navy operated a nuclear-powered submarine 1987-1991 when it had a Soviet-origin Charlie class vessel, also named INS Chakra, in its fleet. The submarine was returned to Russia after the three-year lease ended.

Nuclear-powered submarines, being silent killers, are considered key weapon platforms in view of the surprise element in case of an attack. They are an important part of India's nuclear doctrine, as these can help in completing the nuclear-weapon triad or the capability to fire nuclear arsenal from platforms over the land, air, and under the sea.

Though Nerpa was originally scheduled to join the Indian Navy in 2009, an unexpected on-board explosion in November 2008 when it was undergoing sea trials in the Western Pacific by the Russian Navy sailors resulted in the death of 20-odd personnel due to a toxic gas release.

India will add another nuclear-powered vessel to its submarine fleet in the next six to 10 months when the indigenously built INS Arihant that is undergoing trials joins the fleet.

Two more Arihant-class submarines, with miniaturised nuclear reactors designed and developed with Russian help, will join the naval fleet in the next four years.

India currently operates 14 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Of them, 10 are Russian-origin Kilo class vessels and four are German HDW vessels. back