An IDC Report


New Delhi, 27 February 2005

INS Tarmugli a recent addition to the inventory of Fast Attack Craft of the Indian Navy was built by GRSE (Calcutta). The ship, commissioned on 09 Mar 02, is named after the Tarmugli Island in the Labyrinth group of islands in the Middle Andaman chain. The ship, with a complement of four officers and thirty-three sailors and a maximum speed of 27 knots, can be deployed to detect, locate and destroy fast moving surface craft, bearing terrorist groups engaged in anti-national activities and for anti-smuggling, fisheries protection and search and rescue (SAR) operations. The ship is also capable of mobilizing a naval Quick Reaction Team (QRT) of up to 35 men at short notice.

The Indian Navy is a major stakeholder in the security and stability of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and in recent years Mauritius, Sri Lanka and now Seychelles have received Indian ships and as the Indian economy continues to burgeon these steps are likely to continue.

The Seychelles Coast Guard on 23 Feb commissioned the SCG ship Topaz, a 46-metre patrol craft, after the vessel (INS Taramugli) was officially handed over by Admiral Arun Prakash, Chief of the Indian Navy in a ceremony at the Coast Guard’s Bois de Rose headquarters in Port Victoria.

The "reincarnated" Topaz alongside the quay at the SCG base  President Michel (left) and Admiral Prakesh after the plaque bearing the vessel's new name had been unveiled

On board the ship, President James Michel, commander-in-chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF), unveiled a large plaque bearing the vessel’s new name TOPAZ, accompanied by Admiral Arun Prakash, Chief of India’s Naval Staff and SPDF chief of staff Colonel Leopold Payet.

The ceremony was attended by Vice-President Joseph Belmont, military staff from both India and Seychelles, as well as Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Goel and Minister for Foreign Affairs Patrick Pillay. The Topaz will pair with the SCG ship Andromache in performing patrols, interception and search and rescue duties.

Speaking shortly before the commissioning, Admiral Prakash commented on the friendly relations between Seychelles and India and their respective military forces, saying that if one thought of “the sea as a highway that joins rather than a barrier that divides,” the two countries could be considered neighbours.

The admiral, who was present for the original ceremony to commission the Taramugli –– named after an Indian island in the Bay of Bengal –– into his own fleet more than two years ago, said the ship was specifically suited to the needs of the Coast Guard in patrolling Seychelles’ large Exclusive Economic Zone.

Originally a new boat was to be constructed for the SPDF, he said, but given the time it would take before its completion, it was decided to hand over the Taramugli.

Admiral Prakash said he hoped the “reincarnated” Topaz would be “the jewel in the SPDF crown,” and that it would not only distinguish itself with the Coast Guard but also serve as a symbol of Indo-Seychellois friendship.

Colonel Payet echoed those sentiments, calling India “the main contributor to the SPDF in terms of training and expert support.” He noted that the name of Topaz for the ship was chosen in honour of the previous Coast Guard ship under that name, which is now not in service.

The US $15 million ship will have the Coast Guard’s Major Simon Laurencine as its commanding officer.

Major Laurencine said that the addition of the Topaz will not change the role of the Andromache, and the new vessel would allow for increased coverage and reduce the older ship’s workload. He noted that both ships had the same approximate top speed by design.

The Topaz is expected to undergo some cosmetic changes, Major Laurencine added, which will see the entire ship’s hull painted grey in similar fashion to the Andromache. The vessel’s rear hull is currently black under the Indian Navy.

India has assured its support in training personnel and maintaining the craft until it can be cared for locally. Some Indian crew will stay in Seychelles for three to six months to that end, after which they will progressively withdraw.

According to Admiral Prakash, after his meetings with President Michel, Vice-President Belmont and Colonel Payet, as well as other top officials during his stay, a number of other ventures of military cooperation had been identified. He said he would bring proposals back to India to see how the country’s armed forces could help further.

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