A mock drill on the deep seas by the Indian and Japan Coast Guard units on Sunday demonstrated the inherent capabilities of the two forces to jointly counter a range of maritime threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Indo-Japan Coast Guard Joint Exercises, which alternates between India and Japan every year, was organised off the Bay of Bengal where fleets headed by the newly-commissioned Indian Coast Guard vessel Vishwast and the Japanese ship Settsu simulated a range of search-and-rescue, pollution control and anti-piracy operations.

The joint exercise named “Sahyog-Kaijin-XI” was supervised by ICG Director-General Vice-Admiral M. P. Muralidharan and his Japanese counterpart Admiral Hisayasu Suzuki, Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard. The Commander Coast Guard Region (East) Inspector General S.P. Sharma and a delegation from the Singapore Information Sharing Centre of the regional cooperation agreement to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea and a group of journalists were also among those who witnessed the exercise.

The drill that formed part of initiatives between the two Coast Guards framed out in a Memorandum of Understanding dating back to November 24, 2006, began with a pollution response demonstration featuring a helicopter operation, during which spraying in undertaken to contain an oil spill.

A vertical replenishment sortie, mail transfer and search-and-rescue drill followed.

One of the high points was a dramatic anti-piracy operation in which bright orange hand-flares are created to mark out the hijacked ship for the storming operation to follow where hovercrafts are deployed to round off the ship and commandos on a smaller boat break into the vessel in distress.

The fleet deployed for the near two-hour exercise included 11 surface units — Coast Guard ships Sagar, Sarang, Vigraha, Vajra, Rani Abbakka, Sarojini Naidu and Priyadarshini — high-speed interceptor boats C-151 and C-146, hovercraft H-151 and H-181 and six air units comprising three Dornier aircraft and three Chetak helicopters.

The show ended with an impressive fly-past with the crew of participating units saluting the chiefs of the two Coast Guards.

Later, addressing the media both Coast Guard chiefs stressed the value of the joint exercise in patrolling, search-and-rescue and anti-piracy and anti-terrorist operations in the region.

Mr. Hisayasu Suzuki stressed the growing importance of the cooperation between the Coast Guards especially as Somali pirates were expanding operations into this region.

In fact, the association between the two units dates back to a piracy incident in 1999, when the Japan-flagged ship MV Alondra Rainbow, hijacked by pirates and repainted as MV Mega Rama, was apprehended by Indian Coast Guard in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai.