24 Sep :Following is the extract of the speech delivered by the Defence Minister Shri A K Antony at the inauguration of 27th Commanders’ Conference of the Indian Coast Guard here, today:
"The Indian Coast Guard over the years has accumulated a wealth of experience whilst undertaking various operational tasks and has evolved into an effective, efficient and dependable maritime force of our nation. During my last 23 months in office, I have seen the Coast Guard grow in strength, enhanced visibility and fulfill all its mandated roles enshrined in its charter as well as the additional responsibilities that have been given to it from time to time. The achievements of the past one year are a testimony of the commitment of the Indian Coast Guard personnel.
Threat of terrorism is omnipresent and its tentacles have spread far and wide across the globe, embracing many regions / parts of our country too. Vast expanse of oceans can easily be exploited by the perpetrators of violence and crime. Growing threat from the sea calls for a need to strengthen our coastal security mechanism. Towards this, Indian Coast Guard needs to ensure that its fleet of ships and aircraft are always mission ready. There is a need to embrace contemporary technologies to meet not only the present threats, but also prepare yourself for the emerging requirements of the future. I assure you, that the Ministry / Government is committed to supporting the Indian Coast Guard in its endeavour to modernise its existing fleet with new sensors and equipment, as also its new acquisition plans for expansion of the Coast Guard fleet from the national security perspective.
Sincere and dedicated efforts of the Indian Coast Guard in strengthening the infrastructure of coastal states to meet various requirements of the nascent Marine Coastal Police Force, through training and acquisition of patrol boats for coastal security are steps in the right direction and are highly commendable. I see that your idea of inducting retired Navy and Coast Guard personnel for duties with the Marine Police have borne fruit with Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and A & N Administration advertising for their recruitment. I am sure the other coastal states will follow suit. I foresee tangible results after the full fledged Marine Police Wing starts operating in tandem with Indian Coast Guard towards ensuring a well guarded coast line.
I am aware that despite manpower constraints, the Indian Coast Guard has activated three new Stations in last 2-3 years. Remaining nine stations as envisaged in XI Coast Guard Plan, based on the Group of Ministers’ recommendations, also need to be prioritised and established in a time bound manner. Sustained efforts be made to strengthen these stations so that they can effectively perform the tasks for which they have been activated. I take this opportunity to urge the Coast Guard Commanders to adhere to time lines set out in the Coast Guard XI Plan especially with regards acquisitions and infrastructure projects that have been approved and the 15 year Perspective Plan which is under the consideration of the MoD.
We have abundant marine wealth in our maritime zones and its security and protection is one of your foremost duties. Anti poaching operations launched by the Indian Coast Guard in our Exclusive Economic Zones have significantly contributed in deterring unscrupulous elements from venturing into our waters and exploiting our precious marine wealth. More often it is the vigilant attitude of a nation that deters such elements from acts of misadventure and I am certain that the Indian Coast Guard would continue to show alacrity and vigilance through continued surveillance patrols and apprehensions at sea.
I am also pleased to note that the Indian Coast Guard has undertaken numerous Search and Rescue missions and saved 284 lives at sea during the year gone by. I am told that once the Distress Alert Transmitters are in place, it will enable Indian Coast Guard to promptly respond and render timely assistance to the distressed fisher folks.
Indian Coast Guard in recent years has carved a niche for itself in the international arena by pursuing bilateral co-operation with the Coast Guards of littorals of the region and beyond. These strategic partnerships are not only in the common interests of the nations, but also give fillip to Confidence Building Measures. The successful participation of Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft in joint exercises with Japan, Republic of Korea, Maldives and Royal Oman Police Coast Guard during the year gone by has resulted in achieving synergy in our operations, greater interoperability, besides mutually benefitting from each other’s experience and sharing of best practices.
Safety and security of our vital offshore installations continues to be an area of concern and assumes even greater significance in the present day security scenario. We need to face this challenge and ensure that we are prepared to meet any contingency at any time. Offshore Development Areas need to be kept under constant surveillance as any compromise would entail threat to our energy security. I am told that the initiatives taken by the Coast Guard with regard to unseaworthy ships plying in our water close to our coasts have resulted in DG Shipping issuing a notification requiring ships older than 20 years mandatorily reporting to INDSAR so that their movement could be monitored. This was a significant step and I am told that these measures have already started yielding results, with only two cases of dumb barges having run aground in comparison with 25 such cases which we had last year during the monsoons. I am pleased to note that the sincere efforts of Coast Guard have resulted in booking of Rs 3.05 crores as capitation charges in the seven salvage operations conducted by the Coast Guard in the last one year.
I am happy that the organisation is functioning effectively despite certain shortages of officers and others. The growth of manpower needs to be consistent, planned and in consonance with the growth of the Coast Guard fleet of ships and aircraft. I am happy to inform that more than 800 personnel have been added in the recent past which will definitely help Coast Guard in its discharge of duties. Government has committed itself to welfare activities for the Armed Forces personnel including those from the Coast Guard. I am also glad that the long pending ECHS facility has been extended to the Coast Guard retired uniformed personnel and I am sure that the 6th CPC awards must have made you happy".