After 10 terrorists entered the city by sea and carried out the ghastly terror attacks of November 26, 2008, the police decided to strengthen patrolling along our coast. Two high tech speedboats, Kaveri and Koyna, were procured for this. Megha Sood hops on to Kaveri, to get a first hand experience of the patrolling.
I was looking forward to the ride on board the Kaveri, Mumbai the latest addition to the coastal police’s patrolling strength. But what was just a ride for me is a full time job for five men aboard the Kaveri for 12 hours everyday.
As the sun rose at 7.30 am on a breezy morning, the five police personnel with a driver set off the Bhaucha Dhakka jetty in the deep sea for patrolling.
The nine-metre long Kaveri looks like a small speedboat, but moves swiftly. The ride on the high waves could have made anyone nauseous but the AK-47-toting policemen stood like solid stone figures gazing intently at the vacant stretch of sea.
The 12-seater boat costing Rs 1.5 crore has been manufactured in Goa and runs on petrol. Every day, it covers the route from the Gateway Of India to the Vashi Bridge.
It has two 500-horsepower engines and keeps a watch five nautical miles into the sea--the jurisdiction of the Mumbai police.
Ideal for intercepting and chasing a suspected vessel, the boat can reach Vashi Bridge within 15 minutes as opposed to an hour that a regular ferry would take.
What seems to be a smooth ride suddenly gets exciting as the policemen spot a fishing trawler. Police Sub Inspector Milind Kurde’s voice booms through the microphone, asking the trawler to stop.
After looking at the identification papers of the men on the trawler, Kaveri lets them go, satisfied they are harmless fishermen. “This is usual practice,” says Kurde.
The bulletproof Kaveri is equipped with a radar that enables it to spot other boats in its radius and also measure the depth of the sea. It also has a Global Positioning System set and a marine communication device to communicate with other boats. The driver is trained to mark the patrolling routes.
The Coast Guard trained at least 450 policemen who had to attend 18 courses before going onboard Kaveri that patrols the coast 24 hours.
Kurde says Kaveri has made the coastal police’s job easier but staying at sea for 12 hours a day is strenuous. “We have been trained to handle combat and rescue operations but patrolling in rough weather and the afternoon heat is tough,” says Kurde.
As my stomach begins to churn, the policemen tell me sunburns and giddiness are common but the most inconvenience they face is during thunderstorms.
“The sea becomes so rough that penetrating it is impossible,” says S Pawar, a constable who was a part of the rescue operation when a boat capsized near the Bandra Worli Sealink in July.