Maintaining strict vigilance on the 7,000-odd km long coastline of India would have normally required enormous manpower, ultra-modern vessels, sophisticated aircrafts and equipments like high-definition cameras, however, the modern technology has brought down the exercise at the level of the click of a mouse, allowing the Indian Navy to keep track of the movement of all vessels, including fishing boats and barges plying in Indian waters, from a nerve centre.
A visit by the Goan media persons to the Naval Command Centre – Information Management Analysis Centre (IMAC) – set up in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi revealed the amazing ‘at the tip of the fingers’ mechanism, created to protect the country by way of advanced maritime surveillance, from the anti-national forces approaching the country through the surrounding waters.
Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Communication, Space and Network-centric Operations, Rear Admiral Kishan K Pandey told the Goan media persons that the IMAC, which was recently inaugurated by the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is a joint initiative of the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Bharat Electronics Ltd to improve coastal surveillance.
“In fact, the Centre was conceived to provide coastal security after the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai,” he added, pointing out that the project was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council.
Supported by a dedicated satellite service and connectivity with huge bandwidth, the IMAC has a National Command Control Communication and Intelligence System (NC3I) network in place, which links all 51 monitoring stations of which 20 are Naval and 31 are Coast Guard, so as to generate a seamless real-time picture of the entire Indian coastline, and further track 30,000 to 40,000 ships on a daily basis. At present, the system comprises of 46 radars, while 30 additional radars are planned to fill all the gaps in the coastline security.
The 51 monitoring stations keep a watch on the movement of all vessels along the Indian coastline, and if any suspicious vessel starts proceeding towards the coastline, the system automatically generates ‘threat score’ for the movement of the vessel, initiating the authorities to take further action.
Speaking further, Rear Admiral Pandey said that there are around 2.50 lakh fishing boats in India, which do not have any real-time tracking system.
“A pilot project to track fishing vessels has presently been undertaken by the Coast Guard and 1,000 fishing boats from Gujarat have been fitted with transponders,” he informed, maintaining that a number of agencies such as the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Fisheries, Coast Guard and Indian Navy have to work in co-ordination for the same, besides the governments of those states located along the Indian coastline.
The Navy and Coast Guard, with the help of the respective state governments will very soon install transponders in all private boats of Indian fishermen to locate their position in the sea. These transponders will be connected through the NC3I system.
It was also informed that barges transporting mineral ore, having a displacement of more than 300 tonne must be compulsorily equipped with the Automatic Identification System (AIS).
The Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has sourced customised software from the US Company, Raytheon, which has added filters to identify threats from the vast number of ocean-going vessels by correlation and data fusion.
The IMAC also has an archive of stored data pertaining to details of various vessels that have travelled along the Indian coastline, in the recent past. This data can be retrieved and used whenever necessary.
The IMAC at present has the ability to track marine vessels operating between the Malacca Strait and the Persian Gulf and can trigger off an alarm if any ship’s movement is deemed suspicious.
Meanwhile, Captain D K Sharma, the Indian Navy spokesperson informed that the Defence Ministry knew everything from the beginning about the mysterious vessel that caught fire off the coast of Gujarat on December 31, last year.
“We have got all related records but the information was given out to media only on required basis,” he said.