Indian Aircraft Carrier to Redeploy as Hotel

The Viraat on the occasion of her 50th anniversary (courtesy Indian Navy)

By The Maritime Executive 02-12-2016 08:57:54

Indian media have reported that the world's oldest aircraft carrier in active service, the INS Viraat, will be decommissioned at its next call at Mumbai, to begin its future as a floating hotel and conference center.

The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N. Chandrababu Naidu, recently told media that the defense ministry has proposed to turn the 60-year-old Viraat into a tourist center in a joint venture between the Indian Navy, the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority and an unnamed private partner. The ship would be docked at Visakhapatnam, home of the decommissioned Soviet-built submarine Kursura.

Floatels like the Amsterdam-Botel, near downtown Amsterdam, or the Hotel CPH, in Copenhagen, have been in operation for some time - but the Viraat's new mission in the hospitality industry appears likely to give her the title of world's first and only aircraft carrier open for overnight stays. 

"It will have 500 rooms and a conference hall to seat 500 people. Since it is an aircraft carrier, helicopters can easily land on it. It will be convenient to hold conferences, apart from being a major tourist attraction,” Naidu said. “It looks like a hotel [at] sea. You can pay around $1,000 to $2,000 and stay put in Commander Suite of INS Viraat.”

The Viraat's history dates back to the Second World War: the keel of the 25,000 ton displacement carrier was laid down in 1944, but she was left incomplete until the late 1950s. She was commissioned as the British Royal Navy's HMS Hermes in 1959 and served until 1984, including duty as task force flagship during the Falklands conflict.

India purchased her in 1986, gave her a thorough refit, and recommissioned her as the Viraat. She has gone through five midlife shipyard periods since, and in 2014, the Indian Navy announced plans to retire her by the end of the decade.