With unverified armed guards travelling in merchant ships, many of which often enter India’s territorial waters, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi on Tuesday said this has “serious security implications” for the country as there could be infiltration of terrorists through these vessels.

Admiral Joshi said the movement of such guards is a major cause of concern for the coastal security of the country in the aftermath of the 26/11 attack and the Navy has sought formulation of a regulator framework by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to place curbs on them.

Addressing the media on the eve of Navy Day, he said the Navy wants all such vessels and the men on board to be certified by the IMO. “These vessels cannot just ply so close to our coasts with unverified armed men on board. In some cases even combatants have been found on them. There is no one to keep track of these ships, the arms on them or the guards, so they need to be brought under an international regulatory mechanism.”

The Admiral pointed out that there were close to 140 private security companies operating in the north Indian Ocean and they hire Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel. “These personnel shift between vessels at sea, without entering any port or coastal state regulated maritime territory. There are scores of ships operating as floating armouries, outside any coastal State jurisdiction. The recent apprehension of ‘MV Seaman Guard Ohio’ off Tuticorin, with 25 armed guards of four different nationalities, is a case in point,” he said.

According to him, the issue had “serious security implications” for India with a long 7,500-km-long coastline as such vessels could be used by terror outfits.

The Admiral said that while there is still some risk of piracy near Somalia and the merchant ships are welcome to have their own guards, the entire issue needs to be regulated.