To beef up maritime security, Indian Coast Guard is going for capability enhancement, acquiring nine more helicopters, long-range maritime surveillance aircraft, and 6 C-295 military transport aircraft from Tata Advanced System.

ICG Director-General Rakesh Pal said that the Ministry of Defence is giving adequate funds to ensure that the acquisition processes are all fast-tracked. As of now, ICG has about 157 ships and 78 aircraft for maritime security. Shortly we are going to sign contracts for nine more advanced-sized helicopters...There are plans for acquiring long-range maritime surveillance aircraft, which the Air Force has taken, and the contracts will be signed with TASL (Tata Advanced Systems Ltd), wherein we are about to get 6 C-295..,” the Director-General said at Vadinar, Gujarat, which was the venue for the meeting on 25th National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP).

Like the tri-services, the Coast Guards too want to replace its ageing fleet of Chetak helicopters with Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) which can operated from its ships along with drones, said sources.

D-G Pal, however, stated that his force is well prepared to face any threat post 26/11 terror attack. “I can tell you with conviction that the Indian Coast Guard has nearly 55 to 60 ships for patrolling pan India. We have about 10–12 aircraft and helicopters that fly every day. So our response to any incidents is not more than 1 or 2 hours... On top of that, we maintain good synergy with the marine police... Our ships are actively involved in ensuring that our waters are free from any terrorist activity,” he stated.

Besides active security indulgence, the ICG has its task cut out to check marine pollution. Pal said, India imports about 80 per cent of its crude oil, and 70 per cent of the crude oil lands at Vadinar, Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat. So we can imagine how many tonnes of crude oil are being imported to this place, he stated.

About 80 representatives from about 30-35 organisations, including the Ministry of Ports, Water, and Shipping attended the 25th National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP) meeting, as per the DG. In this meeting, as per Pal, the challenges are discussed, which are related to the preparedness of all oil handling agencies, all other ports, and all other stakeholders who are involved in importing the oil.

“In this, we discussed the contingency plan for all the ports... This is a forum where many big issues are discussed so that we are well-prepared to counter and mitigate all the challenges... I want to tell you that the Coast Guard has three pollution response vessels currently, and we are constructing two more big vessels... Those pollution response vessels will be delivered by 2025. In the end edition, we are also going for the procurement of pollution response equipment...” he stated on the overall modernisation drive.