The MV Pavit incident of July 31 in Mumbai has once again underscored the fact that synchronicity is not India’s forte. I had first warned about such an incident happening way back last December and again last April (see: http://trishul-trident.blogspot.com/2011/04/impregnable-fortress-on-paper-only.html), when I had distinctly stated that the Indian Navy’s multi-spectrum National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3IN) would mean nothing until a common operational picture of all ongoing activities at sea through an institutionalised mechanism for collecting, fusing and analysing information from technical and other sources like coastal surveillance systems (CCS), satellite-based automatic identification systems (AIS), vessel traffic management systems (VTMS), fishing vessel registration and fishermen biometric identity databases, emerges. From the July 31 incident, it is now evident that even eight months after Saab TransponderTech of Sweden was awarded a SEK116 million contract (on November 24, 2010) by the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL) for supplying a national CSS stradling the entire Indian coastline, even the bare elements of the CSS have not yet been made operational. The CSS system is meant to include TERMA of Denmark’s Scanter 2001 dual-band (S/X) radars each with 50km-range, and equipment for regional and national control centres. Users of the CCS apart from DGLL will be the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and DG Shipping. SaabTech was to have implemented the project, which includes installation, commissioning, training and support together with its Indian partner, Elcome Marine Services. The MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) was to have licence-assembled the radar elements of the CSS, thanks to the transfer of ‘screwdriver technologies’ from TERMA. The project was to have commenced last November itself and is due for completion within 18 months. The CSS that the DGLL has ordered comprises both radars and optronic sensors at 74 locations spread throughout the Indian coastrline. The sensor sites will connect via VSAT links to form a Wide Area Network. SaabTech will also deliver the network servers and software, the CoastWatch operator software, including SAR support and advanced databases and statistical functions to nine control centres--six regional and three national. The control centres will be operated by the DGLL. There is also an option within the contract to include another 12 sensor sites.
Going hand in hand with the establishment of the CSS was the effort by both the Ministry of Shipping and the Department of Fisheries’ to make it mandatory for all vessels larger than 20 feet that are entering India’s territorial waters to be equipped with transponders for the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which identified them as friendly vessels (the Ministry of Defence continues to insist that installation of such transponders be made compulsory even for boats below 20 feet length). Afterall, what’s the use of the CSS if it cannot distinguish between friend and foe? But it now looks as if the Ministry of Shipping has not yet zeroed in on the potential supplier of such AIS transponders. And of course, who else could be the potential suppliers other than public-sector entities like BEL, ECIL or even HAL? It thus appears that National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) against threats from the sea”, which is chaired by the Union Cabinet Secretary, and which is the apex committee for monitoring progress of the implementation of NC3IN, has not been doing its job, thereby leaving the Navy and Coast Guard red-faced yet again.--Prasun K. Sengupta