Police want 66 landing points closed to foreign vessels,Coast Guard says not easy

Mumbai Police have proposed that 66 landing points in Mumbai be closed to foreign vessels with immediate effect as they do not comply with the international ship and ports facility security (ISPS) code.

Written by Srinath Rao | Published: June 11, 2013 3:11 am

Mumbai Police have proposed that 66 landing points in Mumbai be closed to foreign vessels with immediate effect as they do not comply with the international ship and ports facility security (ISPS) code.

In a meeting with Central Industrial Security Force (CISF),Coast Guard and Mumbai Trust port officials recently,police also emphasised removal of encroachments along the coastline. The proposal comes a month after Mumbai port trust wrote to police saying they were closing down Hay Bunder.

“It would be easy for anyone coming from the sea to hide in the encroachments at the landing points,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (south region) Krishna Prakash,who convened the meet. While the Mumbai Police said the landing points do not pose an immediate security threat,the proposal was being made as a precautionary measure.

The naval agencies,however,said it was not easy to re-route traffic and added they had initiated the first steps towards categorising the landing points as per threat perception. These landing points receive little traffic apart from dhows and barges transporting fertilisers. “There are four broad categories that are being worked upon and we are looking to discipline the traffic,” said a Coast Guard official.

CISF said the police’s proposal was more a question of jurisdiction. “The landing points,on both the western and eastern coats of Mumbai,come under the jurisdiction of Mumbai Police and are vulnerable to attacks. They have also been encroached upon and criminal elements are present there. There has been a general threat perception since the 26/11 attacks but the landing points are not adequately covered from a policing point of view. The ISPS code does not apply as foreign vessels do not come to these landing points,” said a CISF official.

Developed by International Maritime Organisation in 2004 in response to the 9/11 attack in the US,the ISPS code is a set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities.

Since 2009,the Coast Guard has been repeatedly urging to the state government to monitor the porous water borders. Senior officials say there is no monitoring from the land’s end too,making it vulnerable from various security perspectives.

Last year,as part of Sagar Kavatch exercise,Coast Guard officials tried to enter landing points in plainclothes from the land’s end. “We positioned our men in all 66 landing points and each officer strayed into the premises and stayed there for a full day. There was not a single check. Anyone could walk in and leave with no questions asked. In most of the landing points there were no police presence. In some major ones,where there were security posts,no one stopped anyone,” said a Coast Guard official.

The police,which had written to the home ministry in 2011 requesting to be relieved of coastal security duties,has said the landing points,a majority of which are in Sewree,should be shut as they do not have any security cover. Police had also repeatedly told port trust to cease operations at Hay Bunder as it was neither a major port nor a minor one. Their requests to the port trust had gained momentum after Coast Guard intercepted MSV Yusufi,which was found to be evading customs duty and the reported incident of an unidentified foreign national who sailed from Goa to Mumbai without being stopped either by the Coast Guard or port trust authorities.

srinath.rao@expressindia.com

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