System to help track vessels up to a distance of 50 km from the coast

India’s 7,500-km coastline will now be better guarded. A national automatic identification system network has been put in place to connect 74 sensors installed on lighthouses along the coastline.

The network will be able to detect intrusion by ships, including shipping trawlers, along the coast.

Set up at a cost of Rs 132 crore, the system will be able to track vessels up to a distance of 50 km from the coast. It is intended to help users such as DG Shipping, the various ports, the navy and the coast guard in tracking, surveillance, search and rescue, and in the management of aids to navigation.

SAAB Transponders Tech AB, Sweden, and its Indian counterpart Elecome Marine Services have implemented the system. The AIS is an information and communication system that utilises the maritime VHF frequency band to send and receive navigation-related data, such as a vessel’s identity, position, speed and course. Real time AIS data is routed to multiple agencies.

The need for AIS was felt immediately after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, in which the terrorists entered the country through the coast.

Tracking small vessels

Inaugurating the system, Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan said that the network has a provision to track even small fishing vessels with customised transponders. There are about two lakh fishing vessels in the Indian waters that are required to be equipped with such transponders.

The Shipping Ministry has approved a pilot project by the Directorate General of Lighthouse and Lightships to provide 1,000 fishing vessels off the coast of Gujarat and Maharashtra at a cost of Rs 6 crore.

In the next phase, this project would be extended to other coastal states, including Tamil Nadu, he said.

Union Shipping Secretary P.K. Sinha said that the DG Shipping has implemented Long Range Identification Tracking, which can be integrated with AIS for better surveillance of the coastline. In fact, lighthouses have become a major resource for coastal security, he said.

raja.simhan @thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 3, 2012)
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