Having got 29 new boats and a range of cameras and radars in place for surveillance of the Indian coastline following the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, the Indian Coast Guard is still wary of small craft without masts that operate in the seas and could be used for carrying out similar strikes.
“These boats, which have engines, can be operated with oars and are capable of mixing with fishing boats, are a threat,” said ICG Director-General Vice Admiral Anurag G. Thapliyal, while speaking on the eve of the annual day of the force.
However, he pointed out how with the help of fishermen, who normally go out in groups, human intelligence is being improved to find the odd boat out of the nearly 2 lakh that operate in Indian waters.
The Director-General said a pilot project for tracking of vessels less than 20 metres in length has also begun. “While it is difficult to put technology on the small boats, which do not have masts, the registration of fishermen has been completed and the data has been shared with different units of coast guards. The radio identification fingerprinting of the boats would take place and the prototype model is in place. Card readers are also being provided under a Ministry of Home Affairs project to monitor movement of the crafts.”
Admiral Thapliyal said the “floating armouries”, which the Navy Chief had referred to in his Navy Day media interaction, were also a cause of concern. “Due to pressure on Somalian pirates off the Gulf of Aden, they had moved their operations east towards India and as such several merchant vessels had begun carrying armed guards. Since these vessels had begun operating very close to Indian waters, these guards posed a challenge to us.”
The Coast Guard chief said through the Ministry of Shipping it has urged regulation of these merchant ships, and recording of data of their crew, armed guards and weapons carried by them.
The officer with the addition of more vessels, including one Pollution Control Vessel, one Offshore Patrol Vessel, 12 fast patrol vessels, eight air cushion vessels and seven interceptor boats, the patrolling has increased by over 75 per cent since the Mumbai attack.
A senior officer said 10 of these vessels are now deployed near the Pakistan border and with 16 Dornier aircraft and six Chetak helicopters joining the force post 26/11 the number of surveillance sorties in the region have also gone up.
This apart, the Coast Guard has already completed the first phase of the Coastal Security Scheme at a cost of nearly Rs. 600 crore. Under this 73 Marine Police Stations have been set up in the coastal areas and provided with personnel and boats. In the second phase, due to be implemented within five years, the number of such police stations would go up to 204.
Of these stations, 12 with 28 boats have been provided in Maharashtra, which would get seven more stations and 14 boats in the second phase. Likewise, 12 stations and 24 boats have been provided to Tamil Nadu that would get 30 more stations and 20 boats in the next phase.
The Coast Guard, Admiral Thapliyal said, has set up a Coastal Surveillance Network post 26/11 under which 46 radars are to be installed, of which 10 would be on various islands. Of these 36 radars have been integrated into the main network and with the help of high resolution cameras, possessing night vision capability, help in keeping track of all vessels in the Indian waters. In keeping with the threat perception, eight of the monitoring centres have been set up in Gujarat.
In the second phase of the CSN project, expected to cost about Rs. 650 crore, all the shadow areas would be covered through 38 additional radar stations.
The Cabinet Committee on Security has already granted approval to Phase II to provide gap free surveillance along the 7,500-km coastline.