Need surveillance of India, Bangladesh ships: Navy

Kolkata, Dec 3 (IANS) The navy on Thursday called for developing a monitoring system to prevent a Mumbai-like terrorist attack as cargo vessels movement between Bangladesh and West Bengal largely remains “unchecked” while they pass through the Sundarbans.

With River Sea Vessel (RSV) category ships being used for India-Bangladesh coastal shipping, Naval Officer-in-Charge (West Bengal) Commodore Ravi Ahluwalia said keeping a track on them was difficult as they don’t have transponders installed on them.

“Passing through Sundarbans to Namkhana and northward further towards Kolkata, these ships remain unchecked,” said Ahluwalia.

While the navy has been raising the issue with authorities concerned, Ahluwalia said installing the transponders on the vessels was costly and this deterred their owners from installing the gadget.

“The problem is RSVs mostly don’t have transponders as they are costly. These ships don’t install them as they mostly don’t go to the sea,” he said.

He, however, said the setting up a monitoring system was inevitable.

“It is a requirement (installation of transponders) which has been accepted and it will surely happen. Ultimately, it is a matter of maritime interest and the system has to be there. Otherwise, you may see a Mumbai (happening) again,” said the navy officer referring to 2008 Mumbai attacks by terrorists who sneaked into India from Pakistan through sea by small boats.

The navy’s proposal for a full-fledged coast battery at the Sagar Island on the Bengal coast continues to be in limbo owing to land acquisition and other issues.

“Before the coast battery can be initiated, it is important to build the necessary infrastructure. The problem is that cost of building the rail-road connectivity with Sagar Island alone is Rs.4,000 crore and there are no takers for that as of now,” the naval commander said.

“While central government is hopeful of funding and even if everything falls in line, I don’t think it will happen before 4-5 years,” added Ahluwalia.

Land-based naval coast batteries primarily perform a defensive role against warships and hostile incoming aircraft.

The proposed battery, for which 12 acres of land has been identified, will be enabled with radar surveillance system and Automatic Identification System (AIS) for surveillance of ships and vessels passing through the region.

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