Centre, GMB differ over technology for coastal surveillance



Ahmedabad: The proposal to enhance maritime security off Gujarat coast seems to have hit a stumbling block as the Centre and state port regulator have differences over the technology proposed for improving coastal surveillance.

While the Centre has proposed to install automatic identification system (AIS) transponders and distress alarm transmitter system (DATS) in fishing trawlers, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) wants satellite-based tracking system.

Fishing trawlers often unknowingly tend to cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) in lure of expensive fish, only to be trapped by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, and at times are target of terror groups.

"The Centre has finalised an agency for equipping around 2,000 fishing trawlers of Porbandar with AIS transponders on a pilot project basis," Gujarat Fisheries Commissioner PL Darbar said.

It is a part of the over Rs 132 crore National Automatic Identification System (NAIS) project, rolled out by the Centre last year for ensuring effective search and co-ordination besides broadcasting warnings to merchant ships.

AIS transponders are capable of providing information about a ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically.

"The trial run for equipping fishing trawlers of Porbandar with AIS transponders was scheduled in April this year, but unfortunately it could not be done," a top Indian Coast Guard (ICG) official said.

"The proposal by Centre to enhance coastal surveillance and the one proposed by Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) differ as the latter talks about deploying a satellite-based tracking system for trawlers," he said.

Official sources in GMB said the Board is not in favour of the Centre's proposal on maritime security as it creates multiplicity of equipment (AIS transponders, DATS and other gizmos), which would be difficult for an illiterate small vessel captain to operate, defeating the very purpose of alerting them from the threats of crossing IMBL.

Moreover, the range of AIS transponders is not appropriate to cover the desired distance from the ports and issue warning in nick of the time to fishermen approaching IMBL, a GMB official said.

"Only trial runs would prove how worthy is it and what we are saying," he asserted. The advantage of satellite-based tracking system is that it would transmit signals if anyone attempts to tamper with the communication device fitted in the trawler, the official said.

National Fish Workers Forum national secretary Manish Lodhari said, "Last year, around 50 fishermen were provided with a box called DATS on a trial basis, where they have four options to alert the agencies in times of an emergency."

"The box, costing around Rs 1,700, is likely to be installed in around 2,500 fishing trawlers of Porbandar, this year," he said, adding that they are not aware of any proposal to install AIS transponders in fishing boats.

PTI