India will make a fresh appeal before the London-based Joint War Committee, a body of insurance underwriters, to exclude India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from the war zone notification as there have been no piracy incidents in Indian waters for the last nine months.

The Navy has sanitised the country’s EEZ. There have been no piracy-related incidents over the last three quarters and India is keen to see that its waters up to 78 degree East are excluded from the war zone notification.

If that is not possible, at least its EEZ should be out of the zone, said Union Shipping Secretary K. Mohandas and Director General of Shipping S. B. Agnihotri at a press conference.

Exclusion of India’s EEZ from the war zone has implications on premiums on insurance cover. More importantly, it has a security angle to it. Once within the war zone list, ships plying the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea will hug the Indian coast for safety from perceived threats.

The Shipping Ministry officials were speaking after the inauguration of the new building complex of the Mercantile Marine Department here on Saturday.

They said though the next meeting was scheduled for May, India would not wait until then to make its representation before the London institution.

Paramilitary may guard cargo ships

Mr. Mohandas said that India was considering the use of personnel from paramilitary forces for security duties on merchant ships plying piracy-hit waters. A decision on the issue is expected soon considering that many Indian flag vessels are now utilising the services of security agencies employing foreign nationals.

Dr. Agnihotri said that India considered the option of moving its vessels through the Gulf of Aden in convoys. The next best thing is to have armed guards on merchant ships. This is an inevitable, temporary facility considering that piracy is a reality.

Enrica Lexie incident

The incident involving the Italian vessel Enrica Lexie will not make India reconsider its decision to allow armed guards on Indian merchant ships operating in dangerous waters, they said.

Using men in uniform is an option being strongly considered as countries like France and Belgium have, in the past, argued the case for such a practice.

The Shipping Ministry officials were of the opinion that it was not the right time to comment on Enrica Lexie, now detained in Kochi in connection with the killing of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala last week.

They said that India’s stand on where exactly the shooting occurred would be made before the court of law.

The outcome of the current case, being probed from all angles, will provide the guidelines on future course of action on a variety of issues ranging from the legal framework governing operation of merchant vessels, deployment of armed guards on merchant ships, reconciliation of disputes in international waters etc., the officials added.

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