How to prevent small boats from being hijacked and used like in the 26/11 terror attacks? How to deal with beaching or sinking of vessels off the Mumbai coast as has happened before. How to deal with pirates attacking ships registered in one country, loaded in a second, bound for a third, with its Master from a fourth and with a crew from several other countries? How to warn small boats of a cyclone or conduct rescue and relief operations? The Indian Navy has taken another major step in handling such incidents with the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurating the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram in the presence of Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, the US and Australian envoys and diplomatic and defence attaches. This has been done at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre(IMAC), which is the single point centre linking all coastal radar chains to give a seamless, real-time picture of India’s 7,500 kilometre-long coastline.
The IOR sees 66 percent of the world’s oil, 75 percent of the world’s maritime trade, 33 percent of bulk cargo and 50 percent of container shipments (over 1,00,000) ships transit through the IOR every year. The Navy’s eyes and ears have now got sharper to fight maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching. IMAC and IFC-IOR are tracking between 75,000-1,00,000 ships in real time and round the clock 24 hours. The aim is to collaborate with countries and organisations to share data and information on vessels in the sea.
The systems are only for tracking commercial ships not warships or sensitive vessels. For now, information is shared in the virtual world. Already over 10 countries including the USA, Japan, Australia and France have requested for Liaison Officers to be physically present at the IFC and more are expected to be given the green signal. SNI’s Associate Editor Amitabh P Revi spoke to Commodore K M Ramakrishnan for more on this partnership aimed at keeping the global commons open and accessible to all.
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