New Delhi: India’s expertise has been sought by the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) to establish a Marine Electronic Highway (MEH) in the seas along Africa’s east coast to aid sailors in navigation.
“The IHO has written to the Indian Navy’s Hydrography Department seeking assistance to carry out marine surveys under the MEH project,” Navy sources said here on Tuesday.
The specific objective of the MEH was to increase the safety of navigation using a network of electronic charts incorporating information on environmental assets such as reefs, nurseries, migration areas and the like, thereby reducing catastrophic accidents.
The $25 million MEH would make use of differential global positioning system and other maritime technologies, which would form the backbone of the highway.
The highway would extend from South Africa to Mozambican port of Nacala west of Comoros to Aldabra in Seychelles, passing through the Mozambique channel, on the east coast of the African continent.
By participating in the project, India would establish links with five coastal nations of Africa, an important continent for New Delhi’s economic interests, such as Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Somalia, and the island states of Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles.
“Already, maritime nations such as France, South Africa, United States and the United Kingdom have shown interest in the MEH project and we are considering joining the IHO’s efforts in the project,“ Navy sources said.
The region, incidentally, comprises of world’s 64 major, large marine ecosystems, the Agulhas current and the Somali current.
“The shipping lanes along the East African coast are among the busiest in the world, carrying over 30% of the world’s crude oil supplies. At any given time, hundreds of oil tankers, major of them Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), transport crude oil from the oilfields in the Persian Gulf and Indonesia to Europe and the Americas,” sources said.
Over 5,000 tanker voyages per year take place in the sensitive coastal waters of Comoros and Madagascar and along the East African coast via Mozambique Channel, passing in close proximity to the World Heritage site of Aldabra Atoll in Syechelles.
Moreover, the west Indian Ocean region has 13 major commercial ports, serving as hubs for traffic emanating from and destined for Europe, Asia, the Americas and the east and west coast of Africa.
In addition to the large cargo ships travelling internationally, many smaller boats serving local needs ply the coastal waters and harbours, adding considerably to the navigation risks faced by large ships, sources added.