Chennai: Commercial ships with armed men on board, which navigate along India's territorial waters, pose a threat to the country's security, a senior Coast Guard official said here Thursday.
"...Major challenge in the recent times is the large number of commercial ships that have armed men on board for security of these vessels (which) pose a threat to our coastal regions and the national security, as they do not declare the weaponry on board, if they are not calling on Indian ports," Inspector General Satya Prakash Sharma, Regional Commander, Coast Guard (East) said.
Interacting with journalists on the sidelines of a CII-organised seminar 'Approach to Integrated Maritime Systems', Sharma said that though these ships carry arms for their safety while cruising through waters infested with sea pirates, they pose a threat to India, since there is no check on them, when they move towards the country's coastal line.
"So there are chances of pilferage and that can pose a serious threat to the national security," he explained.
Asked what steps could be taken to check this threat, he said it was the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which encouraged commercial ships to have armed men on board to tackle the menace of piracy.
"But it does not apply to all. It should be country specific. It may apply to a country like Canada but not to India. Unchecked traffic of weapons very close to the country's coastal line is certainly a big challenge," he added, referring to the incidents involving two foreign ships -- one Italian vessel Enrica Lexie and another US vessel Seaman Guard Ohio in the past two years.
While two Indian fishermen were shot dead by Italian marines on board Enrica Lexie off Kerala coast, the crew of Seaman Guard Ohio were arrested after the ship with arms entered Indian territorial waters near Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.