Maritime Laws which regulate the various maritime activities has a very vast history of its evolution. The Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 has left a great impact on the maritime security of the country. There are various loopholes in our maritime laws, one major flaw highlighted after the 26/11 attacks was the poor surveillance of maritime domain and lack of coastal security.
The terrorists made their way transiting through coastal route which revealed the careless behavior of the Government of India and The Indian Coast Guard failed to achieve its motto “Vayam Rakshamah” which means “We Protect” and ultimately the non vigilance of the government agencies resulted in a devastating situation for the whole country.
Prior to the Mumbai attacks 26/11, the coastal security was not much discussed, even though in 1993 Mumbai Blasts the RDX was supplied from coastal routes still the Indian Government lacked emphasis on surveillance and security. Indian coasts were not given a thought as major means of entrance by the refugees or terrorists, but the attacks clearly showed vulnerability of the country to combat terror threats arising from the open and non-monitored seas.
There are various threats which can occur through seas and lack of coastal security. Entry of terrorists, installations of atomic power plants, smuggling of arms, narcotics and explosives and illegal flow of migrants to name a few.
The 26/11 attack was an eye-opening event for the Indian government after which need was felt of reviewing the coastal security systems. Only after the incident, immediately in year 2009, the Indian Coast Guard was designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters, including areas to be patrolled by the Coastal Police. The coast guard is now even responsible for overall coordination between Central and State agencies in matter relating to coastal security.
The Coastal Security mechanism consists of a surveillance system, called as Coastal Surveillance Network which consists of sensors having radars, day/ night cameras, Automatic Identification System (AIS) has also been established by Indian Coast Guard in order to achieve surveillance of entire coastline. Taking an example of USA, the coast guard has various responsibilities including Search and Rescue (SAR), Maritime Law Enforcement (MLE), Aids to Navigation (ATON), Ice Breaking, Environmental Protection, Port Security and Military Readiness.
Various reports also state that some merchant ships still fail to give the mandatory 96 hour arrival information which is required to be given prior to entering the port to Directorate General of the Shipping. In USA, such kind of failure is strictly penalized, the US coast guard on such failure blacklists defaulting merchant ships from entering any ports of the country. Various landing points do not have a police post, ships entering 12 nautical mile territorial waters outside Mumbai port are not strictly monitored. Any ship may enter the city breaching the coastal security ring.
Therefore, the up gradation of coastal security systems became very important, it was proven that a major flaw existed in our coastal security.
Major Steps taken by the government post 26/11 attacks:
A number of proactive measures and there was rhetorical focus by the Indian government to rebuild and strengthen coastal security.
The defensive border is pushed from the coast to the seas and corrective measures like setting up of National Maritime Domain Awareness Program which could actually have a large scale impact over the security, safety, economy or environment and the project aims to detect and tackle threats emanating from the sea in real-time.
The Indian Navy has set up a next – gen intelligence system to beef up its surveillance and patrolling duties by setting up National Command Control Communication Intelligence network (NC3I), and with this the Indian Navy only with one click will be able to track the movement of ships and boats plying in the waters all along India’s 7500 – km- long coastline.
The NC3I network links 51 Naval and Coast Guard stations, located along the coast and on island territories. The network provides these stations coastal surveillance information obtained from various sensors such as the coastal radar chain of the Indian Coast Guard and automatic tracking systems as well as electro-optical cameras.
The ex-defence minister Shri Manohar Parrikar had inaugurated the Indian Navy and Coast Guard’s joint operations facility called as Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) which was a nodal centre of the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network. The IMAC receives vital operational data from multiple sources such as AIS and LRIT, a satellite-based, real-time reporting mechanism for reporting position of the ships.
After few years of 26/11 attacks, there was a 30% increase in the quantity of boats dealing with false characters. Almost 40% of boats did not report their next port of call in order to prevent speculation by the authorities.
The Coastal Security Bill has become a red tape since 2013 when it was drafted; the coastal security bill deals with the problem of jurisdiction maritime zones and the role of agencies involved in coastal security but till date there has been no expedition in clearance of the bill.
Despite various measures taken by the government after 26/11 attacks, the area of maritime security remains the least attended. The government has failed to prioritize the concern of maritime security. The co-ordination between the state and central government agencies remains a large area for concern. The failure of Modi government to appoint for independent defence minister also shows the priority of the government with regard to maritime security in India.
Setting up of quality educational and research institutes in the area of maritime security can also be a good way to move ahead with this agenda. Plenty, of graduates in law and international relations find it difficult to specialize in maritime law/governance as no specialized university/college exists in India, except the Indian Maritime University and Institute of Maritime Studies (Goa) which provides only for engineering courses. GoI must focus on retaining these bright minds on such issue of national interest.
The passage of Coastal Security Bill is another important aspect which must be worked out by the government. A strong legislation w.r.t. coastal security will provide for enhanced policy framework, which is the need of the hour.
Author: Madhu Khatri
You can reach author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
She is pursuing law from New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune. She is also a content writer with TA.