As part of a campaign to enhance its "deepwater capabilities," the Indian Coast Guard has formulated its 15-year Perspective Plan for the acquisition of 15 new ships and 23 aircraft during 2007-2022.
The air assets sought by the Coast Guard --- a force mandated with the task of protecting 2.01 million square kms of India's exclusive economic zone --- include multi-mission maritime aircraft, twin-engine helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for sharpening its surveillance capabilities.
Coast Guard Director General Vice Admiral Rusi Contractor said: "The Coast Guard's responsibilities have increased manifold since the force came into being in 1977 in terms of protecting India's maritime interests, marine wealth and ocean resources. We plan to augment our capabilities along the lines of the US Coast Guard".
Contractor outlined his vision of the Coast Guard's future at an official briefing organised to commemorate the force's 30th anniversary.
He said the emerging security scenario in the backdrop of global terrorism called for the ICG to be at the highest state of vigil while on patrol at sea.
The force plays an equally critical role in apprehending smuggling vessels, neutralising oil spills and checking gunrunning, piracy and drug trafficking, which are all "contemporary threats that need to be countered by determined maritime action".
It seized contraband worth Rs 238 crore in 2006 alone.
The Coast Guard has also been appointed the focal agency in the country to combat piracy and armed robbery under the Regional Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia -- a pact signed by 16 countries.
To effectively meet the challenges of its varied roles, the Coast Guard will be expanding its fleet in the near future with the induction of five fast patrol boats, two advanced offshore patrol vessels, three pollution control vessels, three inshore patrol vessels and 11 interceptor boats.
It has commissioned new stations at Pondicherry, Beypore and Kakinada to bridge the surveillance gap along the Coromandel and Malabar coasts.
Contractor said these stations assumed significance in the light of oil and gas finds off Chennai and in the Krishna Godavari basin.
The organisation is also assisting several states to set up maritime police stations and train police personnel under the coastal guarantee scheme "to ensure that small dinghies and craft cannot be used to land contraband to the shores".
Coast Guard personnel saved 281 lives last year in 65 search and rescue missions.
Contractor drew attention to the need for more private shipyards and "streamlining of procedures" to expedite shipbuilding to cater to higher maritime stakes.
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