Indian Coast Guard Current Affairs - 2020

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ICG organises 18th National Maritime Search and Rescue Board meeting

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) organised 18th National Maritime Search and Rescue Board (NMSARB) meeting in New Delhi. The annual meeting was held to discuss policy issues, formulate guidelines & procedures as well as assess the efficacy of National Search and Rescue Plan (NSRP).

Key Highlights

Deliberations were held on various maritime safety issues and identifying areas of improvement of Search and Rescue services. The meet also reiterated the need to focus on sustainable maritime safety in Area of Responsibility (AOR).

Participants: The apex-level meeting was chaired by Director General Indian Coast Guard and Chairman NMSARB K Natarajan. It was attended by 48 Board members from various ministries, agencies, all Coastal States & Union Territories (UTs). Meeting included three new permanent members to meet- Ministry of Shipping, Department of Animal husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS). For the first time, three strong components of the M-SAR (Maritime Search and Rescue) – Secretary (Ministry of Shipping), Secretary (Ministry of Civil Aviation) and Secretary (Department of Fisheries) participated in annual meeting.

Awards Conferred

MV Asia Emerald III was awarded the SAR Award for Merchant Vessel for the year 2018-19. It saved 6 lives from a distressed fishing boat.

Anand A Ambhire from Maharashtra was awarded SAR Award for Fisherman for saving 11 lives from a sinking fishing boat.

Indian Coast Guard Ships (ICGS) Sujoy and ICGS Vikram were jointly awarded SAR Award for Government Owned SAR Unit for saving 46 lives from ROSV Sagar Sampada off New Mangalore.

Indian Coast Guard and SAR operations

Indian Coast Guard is India’s nodal agency for Maritime Search and Rescue. since inception in 1978, it has rescued 9,672 lives by coordinating 3,180 search and rescue missions, which inter alia includes 2,479 air sorties and 3,540 ship deployments. ICG thus saves one precious life every second day and only in 2019, ICG also escorted over 6,000 fishing boats to safe locations during passage of three severe cyclonic storms. In 2019 alone, ICG took 300 SAR missions involving rescue of close to 1,000 lives at sea which includes 27 MEDEVAC (Medical evacuation) operations and some of rescue operations were conducted at the fringes of 4.6 million sq km vast Indian Search and Rescue Region (ISRR).

ICG has established three Maritime Rescue Coordination centers at Chennai, Mumbai and Andaman & Nicobar Islands and developed voluntary ship reporting system INDSAR (Indian Ship Reporting System) to divert ship nearest to site of incident for immediate Search & Rescue (SAR) assistance.

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Indian Coast Guard can now legally search & seize vessels in EEZ

Union Ministry of Defence has authorized every member of Coast Guard under Coast Guard Act 1978, to visit, board, search and seize any suspicious vessel and arrest people for offences within Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of country. The permission also includes seizing of any artificial island/ any floating or moored object/ any underwater object including any maritime property involved or suspected to be used in the commission of any offence. Therefore, empowering Indian Coast Guard will now enhance coastal security.

Background

Just to board and search suspicious vessels, the Indian Coast Guard (maritime security force of country) have been seeking more powers under The Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976, since 2009.

Before this notification, the maritime security agency did not have the power to board any vessel that passes through India’s EEZ. The Coast Guard then used provisions of Customs Act and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and other relevant acts to board and seize vessels in EEZ. However, it did not have necessary legal backing and many cases would fall flat in court.

There was also a legal loophole using which the vessel companies could sue Coast Guard for detaining ships without any authorisation. Moreover, if Coast Guard officials would seize drugs, detain offenders and hand them over to agencies such as local police, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). The vessels would be handed over to port authorities.

About Indian Coast Guard (ICG)

It is an independent Armed force of India that was formally established by Coast Guard Act, 1978 of Parliament. It protects India’s maritime interests and enforces maritime law, with jurisdiction over territorial waters of India, including its contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It operates under the Ministry of Defence and works in close cooperation with Indian Navy, Department of Revenue (Customs), Department of Fisheries, and Central and State police forces.

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