The Indian Navy has announced the measures it has taken since the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai for enhancing coastal security. These measures include augmentation of systemic efficiencies, increased surveillance patrols, coastal security exercises and operations and training of personnel in collaboration with other agencies.
A major problem, the lack of integration and coordination between various agencies involved in various aspects of coastal security has been claimed to be rectified. “There is today unprecedented coordination, synergy and understanding between all agencies. The resources and security structures of all the stakeholders are being utilized more effectively. Intelligence and information sharing has undergone a transformational change. Real time information flow between all stake holders has resulted in more immediate response by the sea going agencies to a developing situation,” the Navy said in a statement.Crucially, the four Joint Operation Centers, which the Navy calls the ‘hub of all the action’ have been set up at all Naval Commands. “All coastal security operations are now coordinated from the Joint Operations Center, which are manned round the clock by Naval and Coast Guard teams. In addition, the state Marine Police and other agencies such as Customs, Intelligence Bureau, Ports etc are also networked with these centers. Besides the four Joint Operation Centers at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair, each coastal district also has its own Operation Center for coordinating activity in their districts,” says Commander PVS Satish, Naval spokesman. The Navy has conducted surveillance patrols in coordination with the Coast Guard, Marine Police of coastal states as well as with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). “Patrols by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard are closely coordinated so as to maximize efforts and keep the entire coast under surveillance. The Marine Police of each coastal state has been assisted by the Navy and Coast Guard for coastal patrols. CISF units deployed at all major ports are also being similarly assisted,” said the Navy, adding, “Because of increased surveillance, about 100 fishing vessels from Sri Lanka, operating in our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) were apprehended in the past 7-8 months. Also because of better surveillance and alertness, ships straying into our waters are being immediately noticed and interrogated. For example MV (Merchant Vessel) Greta was interrogated and boarded when it strayed off its course and closed Kerala coast on 31 Oct 09.” The Navy has also provided training in maritime operations to the Marine Police of coastal states and CISF are not fully trained in maritime tasks. “263 CISF personnel have already undergone training at INS Chilka, the premier training establishment for sailors in the Indian Navy. This training is planned to continue. Local Naval and Coast Guard elements in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have also taken up similar training for the Marine Police. Nearly 1600 marine police personnel have been trained,” says Commander Satish. The Navy has highlighted three operations conducted with the Coast Guard in particular on the west coast on the basis of information indicating an increased threat perception. Commander Satish says, “Such operations were launched specifically for 03 days in Jul 09 and 28 days in Sep-Oct 2009. During this period ships and aircraft of the Navy and Coast Guard kept the West coast of India under continuous surveillance and thorough investigations and checks of various ships, boats and fishing vessels were carried out. For example, during one such operation conducted on the West coast, about 165 merchant vessels and 260 fishing vessels were interrogated and investigated by IN and ICG units.” He also added, “Nearly 100-200 boats are interrogated every month in the Western Offshore area by naval units.”
The Navy says it has conducted coastal security exercises in every coastal state in conjunction with the Coast Guard, marine police, customs, immigration and Port authorities. “In all eight exercises on West coast, four on east coast and two in A&N Islands have been conducted. During these exercises several contingency scenarios are simulated, including hijacking of fishing craft, landing of terrorists on the coast, stowaways on ships etc,” says Commander Satish.
He also says that an important element of these coastal security measures has been to increase the collation of human intelligence. The Navy has run awareness campaigns for this purpose to use the huge fishing community in coastal areas as ‘eyes and ears’ of the coastal security scheme. “They could provide valuable information of any out of the ordinary happenings,” says Commander Satish, also adding, “Villagers and fishermen in almost every coastal village have been sensitized to threats from the sea and the measures they could take to contribute to coastal security. This is an ongoing endeavor, all along the coast of India all coastal districts will be visited regularly by such teams,” he says referring to the joint motorcycle rally teams comprising personnel from the Navy, Coast Guard and State Police who have conducted awareness campaigns in all coastal districts of the country.