Indian Coast Guard Director General Vice-Admiral Anurag Thapliyal said Indian maritime forces have taken a multi-pronged approach to get the western coast of India removed from being labelled as at a high risk of piracy.
Talking to the media aboard the Coast Guard vessel Samrat after the conclusion of the latest round of India-Japan joint Coast Guard exercise, the Vice-Admiral said the notification, promulgated a few years ago in the wake of a series of piracy incidents close to Indian waters, should be withdrawn as the area was free of piracy for two years now.
The notification caused international cargo ships to transit hugging the coast fearing pirate attacks. This interfered with our coastal traffic, creating trouble. Further, as a relatively cheaper counter piracy measure, many vessels began to embark privately-contracted armed guards in Indian waters, causing serious security concerns, said the Vice-Admiral, in an oblique reference to the Seaman Guard Ohio incident.
Vice-Admiral Thapliyal said though the spectre of piracy extended as close as Lakshadweep a few years back, intensive patrolling led to a sharp decline in incidents in the region during the last two years. However, a fallout of piracy in the Arabian Sea was that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) notified the seas up to India’s western coast as at a high risk of piracy. “We have now taken up the issue through the Ministry of Shipping with various international bodies asking them to retract the high risk area (HRA) notification to west of 65 degree east longitude from the present 78 degree,” said the Vice-Admiral.
While India’s argument seeking relaxation of HRA notification was legitimate, it took time to fructify as the opinion of countries operating cargo ships would have to be considered, he said.