Following the killing of two local fishermen off the Kerala coast by Italian marines aboard an oil tanker, Directorate General of Shipping here has issued a notice, saying that merchant vessels should report the presence of armed guards to the Navy or the Coast Guard.
“All merchant ships are advised to report the presence of armed guards on board to the Indian Navy or the Indian Coast Guard,” says the notice signed by Captain Harish Khatri, Deputy Director General of Shipping and issued on March 7.
It also advises vessels to exercise extreme caution when within 50 nautical miles of the Indian coast.
The merchant vessels should take note of dense fishing traffic on the Indian coast, along with the possibility that they may be approached by the boats for safeguarding fishing nets, and should not mistake such boats for pirate skiffs (as happened in the Kerala incident), the notice reads.
The merchant vessels are also expected to report any suspicious craft within the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to the Coast Guard.
According to the notice, over three lakh fishing boats operate off the Indian coast. “Fishing off the coast of Kerala and Karnataka is particularly intense during the post-South West monsoon and extends up to 50 nautical miles from the coast,” it adds.