The Coast Guard confiscated 65 Sri Lankan fishing boats in the past six months from Indian waters, said Eastern Region Commander A. Rajasekhar here on Friday. In January alone, four boats were confiscated off the east coast.

Asked if these fishing vessels were engaged in any other illegal activities, he said so far there had been no such case. “They are into long-line tuna fishing. Indian waters have a lot of tuna.”

The Coast Guard was keeping a close watch on the eastern waters, despite the fading away of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Inspector General Rajasekhar said on Thursday, two Sri Lankan boats were confiscated for straying into Indian waters.

“Even today, one of our ships, Vikram, has been despatched after a regular sortie detected foreign vessels. I believe these too are Sri Lankan. I am sure there will be a couple of [foreign] vessels confiscated by the time the operation ends.”

IG Rajasekhar said that in 2009, the eastern region Coast Guard – having responsibility from Sunderbans in the north to Kanyakumari in the south over 2545 km of coastline and an exclusive economic zone of 4.45 lakh sq. km. – apprehended 116 foreign boats and 608 crew members. During the period it had also taken charge of 29 Indian boats and 132 crew members from Sri Lankan authorities and safely landed them in Indian ports.

Last year, the Coast Guard responded to three instances of oil spill and was able to contain them since it now had a full-fledged pollution response unit in Chennai.

On the recent incident of waste oil reaching the Chennai shores, he said that in such instances, nothing could be done. Coast Guard’s helicopters and Dornier aircraft conducted daily sorties out of Chennai to look for, among other things, any such incidents.

The Coast Guard had come into the Union government’s planning radar prominently after the Mumbai attacks of November 26. It had been designated the authority responsible for coastal security in Indian territorial waters (during the Mumbai attacks, the Navy was in-charge of the Mumbai area).

This meant more resources for the force. For the eastern region, this had meant new stations at Gopalpur, Karaikkal, Nizampatnam and Krishnapatnam. One Off Shore Patrol Vessel, ICGS Viswasth, would join the eastern fleet in Chennai, next month. An interceptor boat, IC 146, which had been commissioned in Porbandar, would join the eastern fleet in March. Force addition – both manpower and ships – would sharply increase over the next few years.

Asked if the Coast Guard had reworked its boat apprehension procedures after the kidnapping of one of its sailors, IG Rajasekhar said that detailed questioning of the crew revealed they had no intention to kidnap. “It was an act of desperation. It was not intentional.”

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