In July 2017, MV Prince set sail from Gwadar port in Pakistan. Its destination was reportedly Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat. Indian intelligence agencies, that were tracking the ship, picked up a signal, “All safe, entered Indian waters”. It was the captain of the ship confidently informing his ‘handler’ on a Thuraya satellite phone, banned in India since the 26/11 attack.
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) learnt that the Panama-registered vessel is a ‘ghost ship’ that had changed several names. On July 27, it was apprehended near Porbander and 1,500 kg of heroin worth Rs 3,500 crore was recovered.
“In 2008, Kasab and nine others followed a similar route from Karachi’s Keti Bandar to reach Mumbai via Gujarat. Therefore, tracking MV Prince was priority,” said an official.
On November 26, 2008, the ten men traversed more than 433 nautical miles in a boat on Arabian Sea to reach Mumbai. Their five-day journey involved hijacking M V Kuber and abandoning it to travel the last four nautical miles to Mumbai on an inflatable dinghy.
In March 2009, Navy raised Sagar Prahari Bal to secure its bases and co-locate vital assets and points. Joint Operations Centres have been set up at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair. In 2014, to improve coastal surveillance, Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) was set up in Gurgaon. IMAC is nodal centre of National Command Control Communications and Intelligence Network that links 51 Naval and Coast Guard stations, located along the coast and on island territories.
In the last ten years, ICG has carried out 347 operations based on inputs generated by intelligence agencies and 180 coastal security exercises which include Sagar Kavach, a biannual exercise to test preparedness of coastal security agencies.
“There are no physical boundaries to guard, sea boundaries are vast and therefore difficult to enforce. This will always remain the biggest challenge while securing the coastline,” said an official when asked if the maritime security now is foolproof.
ICG’s coastal surveillance network got a go-ahead in 2009 and in 2012, phase 1 was up and running. The network comprises a chain of static sensors having radars, day and night cameras, meteorological sensors and an automatic identification system (AIS).
“The Union government sanctioned Rs 40 crore to Maharashtra under the coastal security scheme to construct 12 police stations, 32 check posts and procure 28 boats, 25 jeeps and 57 motorcycles. Nineteen police stations and 32 check posts have been built,” added another official.
“Both in 1993 blasts and 26/11, landing points were unattended and people could just walk through. These landing points have now been equipped with guards, policemen and CCTVs. We also have 67 police patrol vehicles to intercept any suspicious vessel,” said Yashasvi Yadav, Special IG (Coastal Security and Special Security).
However, securing the coast of Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra continues to be work in progress. Effective implementation of AIS and installation of thermal CCTV cameras are yet to be achieved. Tracking fishing boats less than 20 m in length serves as the biggest security challenge.
Sources said AIS has been installed on about 2,000 vessels so far. “These is reluctance from fisherman as their routes may be monitored. The cost may be another reason. The government needs to take steps to encourage fishermen for AIS,” a senior official said.
The AIS will enable security agencies to see all vessels at sea on one screen. “When fishing activity is in full-swing, it may become difficult to spot a suspicious vessel among scores of registered fishing vessels. This is when AIS would come handy” said a source.
The maritime agencies are now exploring the possibility of using satellite-based transponders that could be linked to the fisherman’s mobile phone. Projects on a pilot basis are being been carried out in Porbander and Tamil Nadu.
“This works using the GSAT technology that is linked to the android based mobile application. The transponder is connected to shore via satellite and mobile phone is connected to the transponder via Bluetooth,” revealed an official. “In October a meeting including the members from maritime security agencies, Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad officials from the fishery department was held to carry out the trial for the pilot. It is still a work in progress,” added the official.
After 26/11, the state fisheries department too had its task cut. Of the 525 landing points in the state, 91 were classified as “sensitive” and in 2015, a plan was in place to secure these. Most of these vulnerable points are now manned 24 hours.
Joint Commissioner of fisheries (Inland) V V Naik said, “We also started biometric registration for all active fishermen and those who mend nets, repair boats etc.”
* Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB) – 1000 personnel, 98 officers mann vital assets and vital points. 900 personnel deployed so far.
* 80 fast interceptor crafts for SPB deployed at 12 locations namely – Porbander, Mumbai, Goa, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair
* 23 Immediate Support vessels have been procured by ONCG for patrolling of the ODA
* Barring monsoon, around 15 naval vessels are patrolling the western seaboard, one air sortie is carried out everyday
* UAV sorties are undertaken routinely
* Needs LRMR (Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance)/MRMR ( Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance) aircrafts, integral helicopters
* They also need HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance ) / MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) RPVs
* Has only one aircraft carrier in its fleet- INS Vikramaditya
Indian Coast Guard
Ships & boats
* In 2008: 60
* In 2018: 138
* In 2023: 215 (proposed)
* In 2008: 45
* In 2018: 62
* In 2023: 100 (proposed)
* In 2008: 22
* In 2018: 42
* In 2008: 4
* In 2018: 11
* In 2023: 16 (proposed)
* Pre-2008: 10-12 ships/boats manned the coastline
* In 2018: 35-40 ships/boats mann the coastline
* Pre-2008: 4-5 sorties
* In 2018: 8-10 sorties
* Community interaction programme: 600 per year
* Coastal surveillance network
* Radar stations
* Phase 1- 36 in mainland,10 island territories (Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands)
* Phase 2 (proposed)- 38 radar stations for near-gap-free surveillance along mainland and island territories. They would be linked to the VTMS at Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Kambatta and 13 other ports including Mumbai
A ICG vessel is required to carry out search and rescue, pollution response, anti-piracy, interception of suspicions boat, boarding of a fishing trawller for carrying out checks , anti smuggling, anti-poaching and medical evacuation
Maharashtra’s coastline which stretches upto 330 miles.
December 2008: Less than a month after the attack, the Maharashtra Government sanctioned Rs. 127 crore for moderinisation of the police force.
A 2015 report stated that of 450 personnel of the Mumbai Police’s marine unit, 230 don’t know how to swim. Today all the men how to swim
In the last ten years around Rs 200 crores is being spent by the Maharashtra Police to procure state-of-the art weapons and equipments.
Under coastal security scheme, the government sanctioned Rs.4092.60 lakh to Maharashtra to build 12 police stations and 32 check posts and procure 28 boats, 25 jeeps and 57 motorcycles. Of this 19 CPSs and 32 sanctioned check posts have been builtAway from the spectacleFrom bomb residue to body parts: Challenges faced by probe officers