Even after having obtained 29 new boats and a range of cameras and radars for surveillance of the Indian coastline following the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, the Indian Coast Guard is still wary of small vessels without masts in the seas which could be used for carrying out similar strikes.

“These boats with engines can be operated with oars and are capable of mixing with fishing boats. They are a threat,” said ICG Director-General Vice Admiral Anurag G. Thapliyal, while speaking on the eve of the annual day of the force.

However, he pointed out how with the help of fishermen who normally go out in groups, human intelligence is being improved to find the odd boat out of the nearly 2 lakh that operate in Indian waters.

Measures taken

The Director-General said a pilot project for tracking vessels less than 20 metres in length has also begun. “It is difficult to put technology on small boats which do not have masts, but the registration of fishermen has been completed and the data has been shared with different units of coast guards. The radio identification fingerprinting of the boats will take place and the prototype model is in place. Card readers are also being provided under a Ministry of Home Affairs project to monitor movement of the crafts.”

Admiral Thapliyal said the “floating armouries”, which the Navy Chief had referred to in his interaction with the media on Navy Day, were also a cause of concern. “Due to the pressure on Somalian pirates off the Gulf of Aden, they had moved their operations east towards India. As such, several merchant vessels had begun carrying armed guards. Since these vessels had begun operating very close to Indian waters, these guards posed a challenge to us.”

The Coast Guard chief said through the Ministry of Shipping, it has urged regulation of these merchant ships and recording of data of their crew, armed guards and weapons. carried by them.

Patrolling has increased by over 75 per cent since the Mumbai attack with The officer, with the addition of more vessels, including one Pollution Control Vessel, one Offshore Patrol Vessel, 12 fast patrol vessels, eight air cushion vessels and seven interceptor boats. has increased by over 75 per cent since the Mumbai attack.

A senior officer said ten of these vessels are now deployed near the Pakistan border and with 16 Dornier aircraft and six Chetak helicopters joining the force post 26/11, the number of surveillance sorties in the region have also gone up.

This apart, the Coast Guard has already completed the first phase of the Coastal Security Scheme at a cost of nearly Rs 600 crore. Under this, 73 marine police stations have been set up.

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