Coast Guard Director General, Vice Admiral Anurag Thapliyal said Tuesday that small vessels that are not fixed with identification transponders continue to pose a significant security threat to law enforcement agencies.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 13th annual National Maritime Search And Rescue Board meeting in Mumbai, Thapliyal said efforts were being made to ensure that all of the roughly two-and-a-half lakh registered vessels in the country were fixed with transponders.
Transponders allow agencies like the Coast Guard to monitor location of vessels across Indian Ocean.
“Small boats are a problem and their movements a cause for concern. They are running on low cost and do not have a proper place to fix an antenna. Depending on the wind condition, they either use an outboard motor or a mast and sail. But we can’t tell them not to go out to sea, it is a question of livelihood,” Thapliyal said.
He added the Coast Guard and the fisheries of all nine Indian coastal states were engaged in dialogue with fishing community.
“A huge amount of dialogue is required. In our dialogue, the fishing community has said that the central government must subsidise the cost of transponders,” he said.
A standard transponder costs about Rs. 10,000. “We have distributed some 1800 sets free of charge. They were found to be very efficient. We then told the fishing community to buy the sets, but that has proven to be a problem,” he said. Thapliyal also said that between August 2013 and August 2014, 544 lives were saved in rescue operations on high seas. A total of 6437 lives have been saved in 2037 rescue operations since the Coast Guard’s inception in 1977.
In the past year, the Coast Guard has received 215 false distress alerts, caused by accidentally switching on the satellite beacons. Data shows these alerts were reported off the coast of Kerala.
“When we receive a distress call, we have to respond to it. But when we reach the site, we find that there is no emergency. Vessels pilots are found to have activated their systems by mistake. False alerts have also found to have taken place when a vessel is about to be torn for scrap and the beacon is accidentally triggered,” Thapliyal said.
MV Aquarius Wing was judged the best merchant vessel for rescuing 11 crew members of a boat 30 nautical miles north east of Kadmat Island in the Lakshwadeep archipalego on September 2013.
The Coast Guard awarded fishing boat Dev Sagar in January this year, for rescuing 6 crew members of another fishing boat Ridhi Sidhi.
A Chetak helicopter that rescued 11 missing fishermen during the tropical cyclone, Lehar, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, was awarded, the Priyadarshini was awarded for rescuing 5 crew members of a merchant vessel off Vishakhapatnam.