On its 35th anniversary, the Indian Coast Guard focuses on maritime safety and security
LT GENERAL (RETD) NARESH CHAND
THE INDIAN COAST GUARD (ICG) celebrated its 35th anniversary on February 1, 2012. Since its inception, the service has been a multifaceted and vibrant force, maintaining round the clock vigil in the maritime zones of India, by deploying its multi-role ships and aircraft.
Beginning with a modest inventory of two ex-naval frigates, the service today boasts of a force level of 68 ships and 52 aircraft. During the past year, one ship, four interceptor boats, four Dornier aircraft and two Chetak helicopters have been commissioned into service, in addition to the establishment of six CG stations and two air enclaves.
Force level: The Indian Coast Guard is on the path of rapid expansion, as a large number of state-of-the-art ships, boats and aircraft are under-construction at various shipyards. The service is expected to attain a force level of 77 surface platforms and 56 aircraft by end 2012. The Coast Guard will also have 42 Coast Guard stations, four air stations and 11 air enclaves functioning all along the coast, by the end of 2012. As far as CG operations are concerned, an average of 18 ships and five aircraft are tasked daily, to keep the vast exclusive economic zone and coastline under constant surveillance. Further, the establishment of coastal surveillance network (CSN) is being progressed to boost the surveillance capabilities along the coastline. Forty six CSN stations are being set up under Phase I of the project.
Coastal security: Coastal security has been on the forefront of CG operations for the past few years. Today, Coast Guard stations and coastal marine police stations are functioning as ‘hub and spoke’ for information outflow. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for coastal security of all the coastal states/union territories have been promulgated by the ICG. Synergy amongst various stakeholders is achieved by conduct of regular exercises and operations, and subsequent review of the SOPs. Seventeen such exercises and 19 operations have been conducted during the last one year.
Community interaction: The service has also formed a bond with fishermen, by conducting regular community interaction programmes, so that they act as eyes and ears for coastal security. About 400 such community interaction programmes have been conducted since January 2011. Provisioning of biometric identity cards for fishermen and uniform registration of fishing boats for precise identification at sea, is under progress.
Search and rescue: Search and rescue operations are regularly carried out by the ICG which has resulted in saving of 415 lives during 2011. A “Search and Rescue” exercise was also conducted off Mumbai on January 14, in which international observers from seven countries participated.
Interaction with other countries: Institutionalised visits as per the memorandum of understanding with Japan Coast Guard and Korea Coast Guard are being conducted regularly. On January 12, a combined Indo-Japan Coast Guard exercise was conducted. The ICG also hosted a capacity building workshop with Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) in November last year, at Goa. In addition, a biannual joint exercise ‘Dosti’ is also conducted with the Maldives National Defence Force.
The Indian Coast Guard has evolved into a mature and highly capable maritime force with state-of-the-art ships, boats and aircraft. The theme of the Indian Coast Guard for the year 2012 is ‘Focus on Maritime Safety and Security’, which aptly reflects the commitment and resolve of the service, and is in tune with its motto ‘Vayam Rakshamah’ meaning ‘We Protect’.