Vice-Admiral Anil Chopra said here on Thursday that the Coast Guard (CG) would be doubling its strength in four years and tripling it in the coming decade. He was speaking informally to the media aboard the Coast Guard ship Sankalp. The maritime agency of the Ministry of Defence was conducting the National Level Pollution Response Exercise (NLPRE) about 20 nautical miles from the Mumbai coast.

“We would be doubling the strength in all areas manpower, aircraft, platforms etc. Currently more than 50 ships are under construction in India,” Mr. Chopra said.

In the aftermath of 26/11, he said the CG and the Navy had enhanced their coordination and set up many mechanisms together. “When intelligence inputs arrive, we gear up for it. We are trying our best [to improve our structures]. All our services are involved in maritime security.’

Detection of suspicious ships

Chief Defence Public Relations Officer (PRO) Captain Manohar Nambiar said detection of suspicious ships depended largely on human intelligence and informant networks. The CG is making efforts to liaise with local fisher communities to benefit from the coordination in tracking suspicious activity. When asked about the trawler Kuber, which the 26/11 attackers had used, he pointed to the non-feasibility of constantly patrolling the 3,300 km western coastline. Officers said the CG conducted many operations in the ambit of maritime security. These included controlling oil pollution resulting from spillage and conducting search and rescue operations. The CG created a simulation of an oil spill and fire. In the oil spill containment operation, which lasted for about an hour and a half, two fire-fighting guns produced jets of water on either sides of the rescuing ship to douse the fire.

A Chetak and a Dornier aircraft were pressed into service to demonstrate the spraying of a chemical called oil spill dispersant (OSD), which reacts with the oil.

The towing away of the affected ship, the lifting of a yellow PC 3 bucket for spraying the chemical and a search and rescue operation, all formed part of the CGs repertoire.

G P Raj, Commandant CG in Andhra Pradesh said, “Transportation of oil by sea is very cheap. The oil from the Gulf travels along the Goa and Kerala coasts and passes through the Malacca Strait to reach Japan and the South Asian countries.”

Dr. J.S. Sharma, Deputy General Manager (Chemistry), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), said the increase in oil traffic had subsequently increase the risk of spillage.

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