Fishermen in distress in the seas off the Kerala coast might find help coming their way faster than now in the near future, as the public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is considering extending the coverage of their mobile phone towers to the very limit of the territorial waters.

“We have received a request from the State government to extend our coverage up to at least 20 nautical kilometres into the seas. And our head office is processing the request,” BSNL Chief General Manager for Kerala Circle Premachandra told The Hindu on Thursday.

Mr. Premachandra said the coverage at present extended only up to five kilometres off the coast. The seas up to a distance of five kilometres off the entire length of the Kerala coast were now under the BSNL mobile coverage. He said that due to radiation-related stipulations, the mobile towers were now being allowed to beep signals of frequencies that could reach only a distance of five kilometres.

But since along the coast the towers could be turned to face only the sea (the signals turned away from the thickly populated hamlets along the coast) there need be no radiation-related fears, he said.

An official attached to the office of the Minister in charge of Fisheries said the State government’s request was in the context of the tragedies that claimed the lives of six fishermen in mid-sea incidents earlier this year. Two of them had died of bullet-hits from the Italian ship Enrica Lexie and the other four died when the ship Prabhu Daya collided with their fishing boat. “We need to do everything possible to rush assistance as fast as possible when there is any distress,” he said.

Mr. Premachandra said the mobile phone had virtually become everyone’s possession in Kerala and the fishermen were using the gadget to real advantage. As soon as a group nets a good catch, out goes the message to the nearest coast and from there to the fish landing centres in the vicinity. The purchase deal is struck even before the fish is out of the net.