Keeping Up with the Times

Indian Coast Guard is on a path of expansion by augmenting its surface and air assets

A FORCE Report

The role of the coast guard has increased significantly in the last few years. Indian Coast Guard has increased its fleet strength to 113 vessels and 64 aircraft compared to 61 vessels and 46 aircraft in 2008. Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has several surface platforms including 50 ships, 45 interceptor boats and 18 air cushion vehicles (hovercraft). In an expanding organisation like the ICG, procurement of vessels is an ongoing process. The acquisition of ships and boats are carried out keeping in view the threat perceptions, strategic concerns and operational requirements. There has been a significant acquisition of ships / vessels for coast guard in recent years. Last year, 34 coastal police stations were operationalised in seven coastal states and Union Territories including Goa, West Bengal, Lakshdweep, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Indian Coast Guard ships and helicopters during operations

The ICG has a total strength of 11,474 personnel in various ranks. The ICG acts on actionable inputs provided by various national and state intelligence agencies. According to government records, ICG conducted 120 operations from 1 January 2012 to 15 July 2015.

The government, after conducting the vulnerability/gap analysis along the coastline of the coastal States/Union Territories, has formulated a Coastal Security Scheme (CSS) with a view to strengthen security of the coastline of the country. Under Phase-I of the CSS, a total number of 73 Coastal Police Stations, 97 Check-Posts, 58 Out-Posts and 30 Barracks were established in all the coastal States/UTs. Similarly, 131 Coastal Police Stations, 60 Jetties and 10 Marine Operation Centers have been sanctioned to all the coastal States/UTs under Phase-II of the CSS.

In December 2015, ICG had released the Indian Register of Shipping – Coast Guard (IRS-CG) Rules in New Delhi. These rules will facilitate design, construction and trials of ICG ships meeting international standards. The IRS has been involved with construction of a majority of Coast Guard ships. The services of IRS are also being utilised by the Coast Guard during refit of ships. The IRS-CG Rules were initially formulated and released in 2008. The rules have been revised based on experience gained in ship building by the ICG and IRS. With emphasis on ‘Make in India’ by the government, these rules will help in supporting indigenous ship building in India, with prominence on excellence in design and quality construction of ICG ships.

India’s coastal security network is a three tier system involving the Indian Navy, coast guard and marine police and attempts are being made to improve the coordination among the security agencies. As a part of strengthening ICG, two new regional headquarters have been established at Gandhinagar and Kolkata besides three new district headquarters at Port Blair, Puducherry and Kavaratti. The director general, coast guard has been designated as commander of coastal command and the coast guard has made standard operating procedures (SOPs) in consultation with all stakeholders for better coordination among agencies. Based on these SOPs, several joint exercises have been carried out in all coastal states and UTs. The National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) headed by cabinet secretary reviews timely implementation of various proposals and other important matters pertaining to maritime and coastal security.

Joint Operations Centres (JOCs), set up by the navy as command and control hubs for coastal security at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair are fully operational. These JOCs are manned 24×7 jointly by the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and Marine Police. In addition to continuous patrolling by 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 coastal radars is also being implemented to plug the small gaps in some places.

However, effective coordination amongst various central ministries and agencies and the coastal state governments and union territories still remains a major challenge, even after seven years of the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

In November 2015, a large scale annual operation exercise of the western naval command of the Indian Navy named ‘Defence of Gujarat’ was conducted off the littorals of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The exercise tested the operational readiness of the western naval command in relation to the littoral combat and the defence of vital offshore assets in the northern coastal states of western seaboard in India. It has been reported that the scale of the exercise was increased substantially by integrating all aspects of the coastal and maritime security operations. More than 30 warships including the latest destroyers, frigates and submarines participated in the exercise along with the air assets like fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters. The exercise also saw the participation from the Indian Air Force (IAF) with Jaguars and Su-30MKI fighter jets. Coast Guard and the state security agencies were also involved in the exercise. During the exercise, the defence of the offshore oil production areas was tested and the defence forces got a chance to fine tune the standard operating procedures (SOP) and test new operational concepts for coastal security.

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