Maharashtra Coastal Security Exercise
The biannual coastal security exercise for state of Maharashtra, namely Sagar Kavach, terminated late last evening. The exercise, which was conducted over two days on 18 and 19 November 2015, tests the security mechanism of the entire state and involves close cooperation of various stake holders such as Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Police, Marine Police, Customs, CISF, intelligence agencies, Mumbai Port Trust and JNPT e.t.c to name a few. Over 20 Naval and Coast guard ships, Dorniers and Chatak Helicopters, and over 55 boats from various security agencies were deployed for the exercise.
These exercises commenced in the year 2009 post 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. The exercise involves simulation of attacks over the 720 km coast line of the state ranging from Dahanu in the north to Vengurla area in the south. As part of the exercise, infiltration and landing through coast was attempted and the efficacy of the patrols by various maritime agencies was tested. Various contingencies are also planned and implemented during the exercise. There has been improvement in the overall success of the exercise in terms of thwarting the simulated attacks over the years. The fishermen community, having been apprised of the coastal security arrangement during various Coastal security awareness campaigns, acted as as the ‘eyes and ears’ during the course of the exercise. Each exercise opens up new areas for improvement in the field of coastal security and their review ensure the long term improvement in the overall security situation.
Developments till date.
After the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, several measures were announced by the government to strengthen coastal and maritime security along the entire coast. Due to these coordinated efforts, measures are now in place and overall maritime security is much stronger than before. The Indian Navy has been made the agency responsible for coastal security and coordinates the efforts with stake holders such as Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other Central and state agencies.
At the apex level, the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (ICSMCS), headed by the Cabinet Secretary, coordinates all matters related to Maritime and Coast Security. Joint Operations Centres (JOCs), were set up by the Navy as Command and Control hubs for coastal security at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair and are fully operational. These JOCs are jointly manned 24x7 by the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Customs, Fisheries Department and Marine Police.
Coastal patrolling by the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police has increased sharply over the last few years. At any given time, our entire coastline is under continuous surveillance by ships and aircraft of the Navy and Coast Guard. As a result, potential threats have been detected and actions have been taken to mitigate them in good time.
Inter-agency coordination between more than 20 national and state agencies has improved dramatically, due to regular ‘coastal security exercises’ conducted in all the coastal states. Nationwide, over 120 such exercises have been conducted till date since 2008, and this has considerably strengthened coastal security. In addition, over 180 real-time coastal security operations have also been conducted during this period.
In addition to continuous patrolling by the Navy and Coast Guard, modern technical measures have also been implemented for coastal surveillance by way of a chain of 74 Automatic Identification System (AIS) receivers, for gapless cover along the entire coast. This is complemented by a chain of overlapping 46 coastal radars in the coastal areas of our mainland and Islands. A second phase of 38 coastal radars is also being implemented to plug small gaps at some locations.
As part of the efforts to enhance our Maritime Domain Awareness, the Honourable Raksha Mantri Shri Manohar Parrikar, inaugurated the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I) in Nov 14. This over-arching coastal security network collates data about all ships, dhows, fishing boats and all other vessels operating near our coast, from multiple technical sources including AIS and the coastal radar chain. These inputs are fused and analysed at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon, which disseminates this compiled Common Operating Picture for coastal security to 51 nodes of the Navy and Coast Guard spread across the coast of India. This Nodal Hub for the coastal security of our country, which has been conceptualised by the Indian Navy, is a major step in the establishment of a coastal security shield along the coast.
The Indian Navy has also established the ‘Sagar Prahari Bal’, a cadre dedicated to coastal security, comprising over 1000 personnel and 95 Fast Interceptor Craft, for protecting of maritime assets. 17 Immediate Support Vessels have also been inducted for 24x7 operations in defence of the Mumbai High Oil Production Area off the West Coast.
Issue of ID cards to all fishermen with a single centralised database, registration of over 2.4 lakh fishing vessels operating off our coast, vessel colour coding and equipping fishing vessels with suitable equipment to facilitate vessel identification and tracking are also being implemented to enhance coastal security. Our fishing communities are adept mariners, whose cooperation is indispensible to our maritime security. Fishing communities have become the ‘eyes and ears’ of our coastal security architecture. This has been achieved by spreading awareness in these communities through coastal security awareness campaigns, conducted by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard, in all coastal districts of the country. The coastal security till free number ‘1093’ is now operational from all network providers and provides a quick means of reporting coastal security transgressions.
The Navy and Coast Guard have also provided periodic maritime training to Marine Police in all coastal states. In order to have a permanent police training facility, a National Marine Police Training Institute has also been recently approved by the Government. This will provide the Marine Police better facilities and infrastructure for professional training.
In order to be better prepared to prevent a 26/11 type incident from the sea, the Indian Navy, along with the Coast Guard frequently conduct various joint exercises. In the run-up to the 7th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attack, over 30 ships, submarines and aircraft of the Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Coast Guard and State agencies were recently deployed for ‘Defence of Gujarat’ exercise off the West Coast. During this exercise, defence of the Offshore Oil production areas was also tested. This exercise provided all stakeholders an opportunity to fine tune SOPs and test new operational concepts for coastal security.
Since 2008, coastal and maritime security has been strengthened substantially by successful implementation of technical, organisational and procedural initiatives, by all maritime security agencies. Plugging gaps, where identified, is continuous process and is being appropriately addressed.