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Bureau of Maritime Security on cards

A Bureau of Maritime Security will soon be proposed to the Centre to enable a coordinated and quick response to threats to coastal security, says Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu. MR Venkatesh reports.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2008 20:53 IST
M.R.Venkatesh

A Bureau of Maritime Security on the lines the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security will soon be proposed to the Centre to enable a coordinated and quick response to threats to coastal security, Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu said on Tuesday.

"This is the most important recommendation of a one-day National workshop on 'Maritime Security - Issues and Challenges' held in Chennai and it has been mooted in the backdrop of certain recent grave incidents like the terror attack on Mumbai and Somali pirates hijacking cargo ships, Baalu told a crowded news conference in Chennai on Tuesday evening.

The proposed bureau will be an apex body coordinating all the stakeholders in the maritime sector including the major and minor ports authorities, the governments of the eight maritime states in the country and the security agencies, Baalu said, adding, "it will be a single agency for control and command of our maritime security.'

This would be the apex agency to coordinate "port-to-port intelligence sharing" so that quick and proper remedial action "can be taken as advised by our security agencies," in the event of any security threat to India's ports or the porous areas of the coastline, Baalu said. He added finally any prescriptive action will have to come "only from our security agencies."

Even prior to the latest terror ttacks, strengthening security in Indian ports has been a major agenda of the Shipping Ministry for the last 18 months and today's workshop was a culmination of that process as it also brought in the security agencies like IB, the minister said.

Some of the new security features being incorporated into the various Indian ports included monitoring of even porous areas close to the port with more closed circuit televisions, putting in a place a port surveillance management system and more importantly installing a 'Radio Frequency Information Device (RIFD)', he said. The latter will help monitor movement of all vehicles in and out of the ports. Kochi port has already installed RIFD.

The other crucial issue would be to give identity cards to all Indian fishermen, "which is a very difficult job", Baalu said. But it has to be done, as "our coastal fishermen will be the eyes and ears of our maritime intelligence and security system in the days to come," the Minister said.

The workshop also discussed the need to develop a model and frame a unified legislation like the Motor Vehicles Act to register all types of fishing vessels and boats with the help of the State Governments concerned. If maritime states have different regulations for registering fishing vessels and boats, they all need to be harmonised under a "uniform registry" so that all relevant information could be had in one go in an emergency, he said.