Admiral Verma suggests additional steps to make coastline more secure
The Navy has suggested additional measures to make the coastline more secure. It wants legislation to take punitive action against vessels functioning without mandatory Automatic Information System (AIS) transponders and suggested that the fishing boats pass through a toll gate while entering and exiting harbour.
The Navy, tasked with the overall maritime security after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has found that vessels below 300 tonnes, which are required to install AIS transponders, have not done so even after a year.
“The AIS is not happening and we are thinking of legislation for punitive action [against those who have not installed it] for, enough time has been given,” Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma told The Hindu.
While the awareness campaign launched among fishermen had started yielding results, Admiral Verma said it was a huge task to monitor some 50,000 boats that leave the shores each day on either coast into the sea and return.
One of the measures contemplated was making boats below 20 metres pass through toll gates while leaving and entering so that their movement was recorded through a low-cost transponder or radio frequency tags fitted on the boats.
However, time was needed for such a system to be put in place as it involved working with the fishermen community. The Navy, along with the Coast Guard and the local police, had covered all coastal districts and sensitised villagers and fishermen in each State to the threats from the sea.
“The fishing community is considered the eyes and ears of the coastal security scheme and could provide valuable information. During the last one year, every village and fishing hamlet along the coastline has been visited and it has paid off, though sometimes there have been false alarms,” Admiral Verma said.
As for the plan to establish a radar chain along the 7,500-km coastline, the Navy chief said it would be in place by next year. In the first phase, 46 radars were being set up along the coast, including in the island territories, at a cost of Rs. 300 crore. The public sector Bharat Electronics Limited was carrying out the radar chain work that also included setting up of sensors for identification of vessels near the coast.
The Navy was preparing a National Maritime Domain Awareness doctrine to make the system more transparent. Admiral Verma said that with the installation of AIS on ships above a certain tonnage, there was a fair level of transparency as to who was sailing in an area.