The government today announced a slew of measures to strengthen maritime and coastal security against threats from the sea. In the backdrop of multiple agencies involved in coastal security and the resultant problems of coordination, the government has designated the Indian Navy as the authority responsible for overall maritime security, both coastal and offshore. The Indian Navy will be assisted by Coast Guard, State Marine Police and other Central and State agencies for the coastal defence of the nation. Announcing this at a press conference shortly after laying the keel of the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier in Kochi today, the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony said “the tragic incidents that took place at Mumbai has in fact shaken the nation. It is our duty to learn from that tragic incident”. He said Joint Operation Centres (JOCs) at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi and Port Blair will be set up under the charge of existing Naval C-in-Cs. The JOCs will be jointly manned and operated by the Navy and Coast Guard with inputs from diverse agencies including Coast Guard, Navy and concerned Central and State Government agencies. The Naval C-in-Cs will be designated as the C-in-Cs Coastal Defence. Shri Antony said a National Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence network for real-time maritime domain awareness linking the operations rooms of the Navy and Coast Guard, both at the field and the apex levels, will also be established. The Defence Minister said the Navy will control all Navy and Coast Guard joint operations. “This will ensure that the assets are optimally deployed and there is synergy between the two organisations. With these measures the Government is expecting that a new focus will be given for effectively managing threats from the sea and security for our coastline”, he said. Shri Antony said the government has also taken a number of steps for strengthening the maritime security agencies like Navy and Coast Guard by increasing their assets like ships, boats, helicopters, aircraft etc. as well as manpower. The Navy is getting a new specialised force called “Sagar Prahari Bal” comprising 1000 personnel for protecting naval assets and bases on both East and West coasts and the Island territories. Along with this, 80 Fast Interception Crafts will be procured for sea front patrolling by this force. A new Regional HQ will be set up in Gujarat under the newly created post of COMCG, North-West, to look after surveillance off the coast of Gujarat. The Defence Minister said offshore security is also an important component of maritime security. In this direction, the government has decided for installation of Vessel and Air Traffic Management System for all offshore development areas as has been done in the Western offshore region by Ministry of Petroleum. Along with this, Government has decided to procure Immediate Support Vessels for offshore security by Ministry of Petroleum and Indian Navy. In the interim, patrolling using hired craft will be done. Strengthening the Indian Coast Guard:. Shri Antony said the Indian Coast Guard will be additionally designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters including areas to be patrolled by the Coastal Police. The Director General Coast Guard will be designated as Commander Coastal Command and will be responsible for overall coordination between central and state agencies in all matters relating to coastal security. The Defence Minister said the government has approved setting up of nine additional Coast Guard stations to integrate into the ‘hub-and-spoke concept’ with coastal police stations along with manpower. These stations are to be located at Karwar, Ratnagiri, Vadinar, Gopalpur, Minicoy, Androth, Karaikal, Hutbay and Nizampatnam. The Coastguard is being empowered both in terms of providing assets like ships, boats, aircraft and helicopters and necessary manpower for their enhanced role in guarding our coast line. One post of Addl DG, one post of COM North West, three posts of DDG have been sanctioned in addition to about 20% increase in afloat units and 30% increase for shore support. The Intelligence set up of Coast Guard is also being improved with adequate manpower resources. Government has also approved the proposal for setting up of Static Coastal Radar Chain and a comprehensive network chain of AIS stations along the entire coast as well as island territories. This will be implemented by Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways in coordination with Coast Guard. Further, AIS Transponders on vessels below 300 tonnes are also proposed to be installed. This work will be done by Ministry of Shipping in coordination with Coast Guard. These measures, which have been approved by the Government, Shri Antony said, are expected to give a new thrust for strengthening coastal security and meet the challenge of threats for the sea.