New Coast Guard headquarters to come up in Lakshadweep

The CG headquarters and station have come up at a time when the Indian waters off Lakshadweep Islands chain in the Arabian Sea have witnessed increased pirate activity in recent months.

The headquarters of the CG district-12 in Kavaratti and the station at Minicoy are part of the Coast Guard's expansion plans for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan ending 2012.

Defence Minister A K Antony, declaring the new CG headquarters and station open in the presence of CG Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, said, "the opening of the two establishments have a special relevance due to its proximity to the world's busiest shipping lanes."

"The two new establishments in the strategically located islands will provide the much needed teeth to Coast Guard operations and enhance safety and security of Lakshadweep Islands.

"They would also facilitate greater synergy between Coast Guard, administration of Lakshadweep and other agencies. It is important to have effective coordination and sharing of intelligence to have an effective response to any fast developing security challenge at sea," he added.

Referring to the recent piracy attempts on cargo ships in and around the Lakshadweep waters, Antony said the need for CG establishments at the chain of islands was felt due to the increasing threat from the sea brigands, as 14 incidents were reported from here in the last one year following the successful anti-piracy operations by world navies at Gulf of Aden closer to the Somali coast.

"The CG and the Navy will work to secure your fishermen and the shipping lanes nearer to your island 24 hours a day," he said to a massive crowd that came to witness the commissioning of the CG station at Minicoy, a decision taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security in February 2009, this evening.

"We can neglect the seas only at our peril, as the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai showed," Antony said, urging the maritime forces to remain ever vigilant and not to lower their guard at any point of time, he said, nations are turning to the seas and oceans for sustenance as natural resources on the land are getting depleted fast.

"The fast-paced economic growth has increased the volume of maritime trade and commerce. The resultant growth of maritime traffic calls for drawing up an efficient framework that addresses all issues related to maritime safety, security, protection of of maritime environment, disaster mitigation and law enforcement at sea.

"The maritime infrastructure, oceanic resources and sea-borne trade need to be zealously protected 24X7. The Coast Guard possesses the expertise in this field and as such, its role is highly significant and relevant," he added.

The coastal security set up in Lakshadweep chain is undergoing major modifications and restructuring so as to keep a check on pirate and illegal activities in and around the Indian waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Lakshadweep already has a CG station functioning at Kavaratti.

Apart from the Minicoy CG station, Lakshadweep will also have a CG air station there soon, apart from another station at Androth, the Defence Minister said, pointing out that the air strip, to come up by April 2012, would also help in civilian air traffic to the island chain.

At the air station, the CG would operate its Dornier maritime patrol aircraft.

He also noted that the Lakshadweep Islands chain would have six coastal radar centres, as part of the Coastal Surveillance Network that the government is setting up to improve intelligence gathering and sharing of information among all maritime stakeholders.

These are all part of India's efforts to have a robust coastal security mechanism in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

The CG has in the recent months commissioned five new stations at Karwar (Karnataka), Gandhinagar and Veraval (both Gujarat), Hutbay (Andaman Islands) and Murud Janjira (Maharashtra) to augment the maritime security force's strength and expand its presence.

The Arabian Sea, closer to the Indian mainland and Lakshadweep Islands, have witnessed a couple of Somali pirate attacks on merchant vessels, including a Bangladeshi vessel, in the recent months.

The Navy has also chased away two mother ships of the sea brigands that were operating in the area, apart from apprehending 14 Pakistanis and five Iranians, who claimed to be fishermen but had anchored off Lakshadweep with their fishing net in its hold on board their dhow.

The Navy also had to send a multi-ship force to the area in late October this year after a spurt in pirate activity was reported from the area.

Located between 200 and 400 kilometers from Kerala coast, Lakshadweep archipelago comprises 36 islands with a total area of about 32 sqkm. Only 11 of these islands are inhabited.

The territorial waters is about 20,000 sqkm and the EEZ extends to four lakh sqkm.
"Increasing incidents of piracy very near Lakshadweep in recent times have added a whole new dimension to threat perception in the region. The group of islands are also vulnerable to maritime pollution as two of the world's busiest sea lanes of communication are abounding it," the official noted.

The Eight Degree Channel, which separates Minicoy Island and Maldives, witnesses maritime traffic of about 30 to 40 merchant vessels a day. 

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