S. Vijay Kumar and C. Jaishankar

CHENNAI/RAMANATHAPURAM: The Muthupet lagoon, spread over 11,885 hectares along the Palk Straits covering Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts in Tamil Nadu, will soon be brought under a security blanket.

As part of an elaborate security plan to upgrade vigil in shallow waters, the Coastal Security Group on Monday acquired eight rigid inflatable speed boats under the Modernisation of Police Force scheme. They are being tested off the Mandapam Coast.

The move gains prominence in the backdrop of the war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and armed forces in Sri Lanka that has geographical proximity to the south-eastern coastline. Also, this is considered as an important step in enhancing maritime security that has gained more significance after the recent Mumbai attacks.

A group of personnel of the marine police station at Mandapam ventured into the sea with the new boats. Ramanathapuram Superintendent of Police K.A. Senthil Velan and the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Station, Mandapam, Commandant K. Janardhanan, were among those who travelled in the first sortie.

G. Venugopal, Inspector, Marine Station, Mandapam said the boats could travel at 30 nautical miles per hour and had 75 HP outboard motor engine.

The Coastal Security Group has also placed orders for rubber inflatable boats for patrolling the backwaters.

The boats would be deployed in the Palk Bay between January and June and in the Gulf of Mannar during the rest of the year considering the sea conditions. Patrolling would be conducted with the assistance of the Coast Guard and Navy. The 120 personnel attached to the Coastal Security Group would undergo a one-week training programme, he said.

Mr. Seshadri, who is also heading the Coastal Security Group, said the first phase of supply of sophisticated boats, being imported from Greece and assembled by the Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, would commence in a couple of months.

“The Muthupet lagoon is strategically very important to us. It is protected by one of the largest mangrove forests in the country. Effective patrolling is imperative from the security point of view. The lagoon is presently under the control of the Forest Department and we have proposed to bring it under a security blanket,” Director-General of Police (Civil Defence), Jagan. M. Seshadri told The Hindu.