New Coast Guard headquarters to come up in Lakshadweep

Last Updated: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 22:21

Minicoy (Lakshadweep): India`s coastal
security apparatus around Lakshadweep chain of islands on Friday
received a boost when a new Coast Guard (CG) headquarters and
a station were inaugurated at Kavaratti and Minicoy
respectively today.

The CG headquarters and station have come up at a time
when the Indian waters off Lakshadweep Islands chain in the
Arabian Sea have witnessed increased pirate activity in recent
months.

The headquarters of the CG district-12 in Kavaratti
and the station at Minicoy are part of the Coast Guard`s
expansion plans for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan ending 2012.
Defence Minister A K Antony, declaring the new CG
headquarters and station open in the presence of CG Director
General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, said, "the opening of the
two establishments have a special relevance due to its
proximity to the world`s busiest shipping lanes."

"The two new establishments in the strategically
located islands will provide the much needed teeth to Coast
Guard operations and enhance safety and security of
Lakshadweep Islands.

"They would also facilitate greater synergy between
Coast Guard, administration of Lakshadweep and other agencies.
It is important to have effective coordination and sharing of
intelligence to have an effective response to any fast
developing security challenge at sea," he added.

Referring to the recent piracy attempts on cargo ships
in and around the Lakshadweep waters, Antony said the need for
CG establishments at the chain of islands was felt due to the
increasing threat from the sea brigands, as 14 incidents were
reported from here in the last one year following the
successful anti-piracy operations by world navies at Gulf of
Aden closer to the Somali coast.

"The CG and the Navy will work to secure your
fishermen and the shipping lanes nearer to your island 24
hours a day," he said to a massive crowd that came to witness
the commissioning of the CG station at Minicoy, a decision
taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security in February 2009,
this evening.

"We can neglect the seas only at our peril, as the
2008 terror attacks on Mumbai showed," Antony said, urging the
maritime forces to remain ever vigilant and not to lower their
guard at any point of time, he said, nations are turning to
the seas and oceans for sustenance as natural resources on the
land are getting depleted fast.

"The fast-paced economic growth has increased the
volume of maritime trade and commerce. The resultant growth of
maritime traffic calls for drawing up an efficient framework
that addresses all issues related to maritime safety,
security, protection of of maritime environment, disaster
mitigation and law enforcement at sea.

"The maritime infrastructure, oceanic resources and
sea-borne trade need to be zealously protected 24X7. The Coast
Guard possesses the expertise in this field and as such, its
role is highly significant and relevant," he added.
The coastal security set up in Lakshadweep chain is
undergoing major modifications and restructuring so as to keep
a check on pirate and illegal activities in and around the
Indian waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Lakshadweep already has a CG station functioning at
Kavaratti.

Apart from the Minicoy CG station, Lakshadweep will
also have a CG air station there soon, apart from another
station at Androth, the Defence Minister said, pointing out
that the air strip, to come up by April 2012, would also help
in civilian air traffic to the island chain.

At the air station, the CG would operate its Dornier
maritime patrol aircraft.

He also noted that the Lakshadweep Islands chain would
have six coastal radar centres, as part of the Coastal
Surveillance Network that the government is setting up to
improve intelligence gathering and sharing of information
among all maritime stakeholders.

These are all part of India`s efforts to have a robust
coastal security mechanism in the aftermath of the Mumbai
terror attacks in 2008.

The CG has in the recent months commissioned five new
stations at Karwar (Karnataka), Gandhinagar and Veraval (both
Gujarat), Hutbay (Andaman Islands) and Murud Janjira
(Maharashtra) to augment the maritime security force`s
strength and expand its presence.

The Arabian Sea, closer to the Indian mainland and
Lakshadweep Islands, have witnessed a couple of Somali pirate
attacks on merchant vessels, including a Bangladeshi vessel,
in the recent months.

The Navy has also chased away two mother ships of the
sea brigands that were operating in the area, apart from
apprehending 14 Pakistanis and five Iranians, who claimed to
be fishermen but had anchored off Lakshadweep with their
fishing net in its hold on board their dhow.

The Navy also had to send a multi-ship force to the
area in late October this year after a spurt in pirate
activity was reported from the area.

Located between 200 and 400 kilometers from Kerala
coast, Lakshadweep archipelago comprises 36 islands with a
total area of about 32 sqkm. Only 11 of these islands are
inhabited.

The territorial waters is about 20,000 sqkm and the
EEZ extends to four lakh sqkm.

"Increasing incidents of piracy very near Lakshadweep
in recent times have added a whole new dimension to threat
perception in the region. The group of islands are also
vulnerable to maritime pollution as two of the world`s busiest
sea lanes of communication are abounding it," the official
noted.

The Eight Degree Channel, which separates Minicoy
Island and Maldives, witnesses maritime traffic of about 30 to
40 merchant vessels a day.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 22:21

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