Operation Samudra Setu, which was launched on 5 May 2020 as part of the national effort to repatriate Indian citizens from overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic has culminated after successfully bringing 3,992 Indian citizens back to their homeland by sea.

Indian Naval Ships Jalashwa (Landing Platform Dock) and Airavat, Shardul and Magar (Landing Ship Tanks) participated in this operation which lasted over 55 days and involved traversing more than 23,000 kilometres by sea. Indian Navy has previously undertaken similar evacuation operations as part of Operation Sukoon in 2006 (Beirut) and Operation Rahat in 2015 (Yemen).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on ships and seafarers due to the compact environment and forced ventilation systems onboard ships. It was in these trying times and difficult conditions that the Indian Navy took up the challenge to evacuate our distressed citizens from overseas.

The greatest challenge for the Indian Navy was to avoid any incident of an outbreak of infection on board the ships during the evacuation operation. Rigorous measures were planned and medical/safety protocols unique to the operating environment of ships were implemented.

Op Samudra Setu was undertaken utilising Indian Naval ships best suited for the operation, catering for COVID-19 related social distancing norms vis-à-vis medical arrangements and carrying capacity. Ships used for the operation were specially provisioned and the Sick Bay or the clinic onboard was specially equipped with COVID-19 related equipment and facilities.

Women Officers and military nursing staff were also embarked for women passengers. Basic amenities and medical facilities were provided to all evacuees during sea passage on these ships. One of the expectant mothers who undertook passage on Jalashwa, Sonia Jacob, also gave birth to a baby boy within a few hours of reaching Kochi on International Mother’s Day.

Indian Naval ships Jalashwa, Airavat, Shardul and Magar steamed more than 23,000 kilometres during Op Samudra Setu and undertook the evacuation operation in a smooth and coordinated manner.