India to use satellite system for tracking boats, fishing vessels

India to use satellite system for tracking boats, fishing vessels

Bangalore: In the wake of the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, India has decided to use a satellite system to monitor the movement of smaller boats, including fishing trawlers, that ply the country’s waters.

The perpetrators of last week’s terror attacks hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, Kuber, off the Gujarat coast and used it to reach Mumbai.

The Union government has decided to bring fishing trawlers and boats of a gross tonnage (total internal cubic capacity of a ship) of at least 100 under a tracking mechanism currently being set up for bigger ocean-going ships, said a senior official of the Directorate General of Shipping, or DGS, India’s maritime regulator. He declined to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media.

The tracking mechanism follows rules framed by the global maritime regulator, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and will bring India in line with the latest guidelines of the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention monitored by the IMO. India is a signatory to the convention.

A satellite-based system to identify and track ships with a gross tonnage of at least 300, that would bolster maritime security along the country’s coast, will become operational beginning 1 January, the DGS official said.

“In the second phase of the project, the government plans to bring fishing trawlers and boats of 100 gross tonnage and above under the tracking mechanism," the official said.

The IMO has asked member countries to activate the tracking system by 1 January.

Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), is implementing the system for the DGS. It has hired Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, India’s largest software services exporter, as the communications service provider for the project, which will be operated jointly by the DGS, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.

The system, to be established in Mumbai with a remote data centre for disaster recovery in New Delhi, will track vessels over a distance of around 1,000 nautical miles, or 1,852km, from India’s coastline, which measures more than 7,500km.

A Union shipping ministry official said the Mumbai terror attack has given a new thrust to the move to bring smaller fishing craft also under the tracking mechanism. “Smaller fishing boats and trawlers are vulnerable to such kind of things," added this official who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Currently, fishing vessels come under the jurisdiction of fisheries departments of state governments. “As a result, we don’t know how many of them are there and their details," the ministry official said.