New maritime security command rolled out in wake of Mumbai terror attacks. The Government has announced the formation of a Maritime Security Advisory Board (MSAB) headed by a Maritime Security Adviser (MSA), probably a serving Vice Admiral in the Indian Navy. Additional naval personnel will work with the MSA to propose policy, coordinate with security agencies, the Coast Guard and other ministries. Officers will be deputed from some of these agencies to complement the MSAB. The proposal, put forward by the Ministry of Defence, envisages regulatory control by the MSAB, which may issue directives as required to maritime interests including in the offshore sector. A slew of counter terrorist measures have been proposed for the offshore industry. These include no fly zones, fishing and other exclusion zones, shipping and aircraft tracking/reporting systems, Immediate Support vessels and rapid response teams. The plan will cost almost 7000 crores, and will include nine additional Coast Guard stations, almost a hundred fast attack craft and mandatory registration and AIS systems aboard fishing vessels and additional radar installations. The marine police infrastructure will be strengthened to ensure additional security within 12 miles from the coast. Although the Coast Guard will remain the authority for coastal security between 12 and 200 miles, the MSA will especially address the issues that have been thrown up in light of the maritime security breakdown that led to the Mumbai attacks. Overall responsibility for coordinating maritime security has now been explicitly given to the Indian Navy. It is believed that a centralised agency will help in coordinating urgent issues with State governments as well, since many aspects of coastal security fall under their domain.
Indian Maritime University inaugurated by Chief Minister Karunanidhi in Chennai. Located at Uthandi on the East Coast Road, the country’s first such
University will begin training shipping professionals in the summer of 2009. Shipping Minister Baalu reveals tie ups with two maritime universities in China and the Antwerp University for MBA degrees, and additional collaboration with institutions in Malta and the Netherlands for degrees in law and dredging. The inauguration comes after the recent act passed by Parliament authorising the IMU, and is expected to give a much needed boost to maritime education and training in the country. The IMU will be located in Chennai; existing facilities in Mumbai, Kolkata and Visakhapatnam will be merged with it.
India asks Panama to act against NKK in the Rezzak case, ten months after the ship disappeared in the Black Sea with 25 Indian crew aboard. Livemint reports that NKK had declared the vessel seaworthy even after 10 known deficiencies, “some of them crucial”. Authorities learnt later that the ship had been allowed to sail from Novorossiysk in Russia to Bartin in Turkey only after it promised to conduct the required repairs at Bartin. It went missing on that passage. Questions had been raised at the time on major deficiencies aboard the vessel, its earlier detention of two weeks for non compliance and the status of critical shipboard safety equipment like the EPIRB. Livemint quotes Deepak Kapoor, Deputy Director, DG India, as having written to the Panamanian authorities on NKK’s omission in requesting authorisation from the Flag State before certifying the Rezzak seaworthy: a clear breach of Panamanian procedures. The letter also asks for action to be taken against NKK and Mascosnar Corp. (MC), a company authorised by Panama to issue DOCs and SMCs on its behalf. Meanwhile, criticism that Panama is dragging its feet in publishing its final report on the investigation into the missing ship has resurfaced.
A half dozen piracy attacks in the first few days of 2009 make a mockery of earlier reports suggesting that Somali piracy had decreased in the last month. The International Maritime Bureau in Malaysia has confirmed these attacks, and at least one hijack of an Egyptian vessel with 28 crew, since Jan 1. "There have been a lot of attacks in the past few days, but many of these attacks have not been successful," said Noel Choong, head of the (IMB) piracy reporting centre. Alarmingly, instances of pirates firing on vessels have escalated as the criminals try to board the vessels quickly before naval warships arrive on the scene. On New Year ’s Day, a Malaysian warship repulsed an attack on an Indian tanker; the Egyptian vessel was hijacked an hour later. A Greek bulk carrier was attacked later in the day although it managed to evade the pirates. Subsequent attacks included an assault on a German tanker that was fired upon and a similar attempt on another Greek tanker that was assisted by coalition aircraft and managed to escape. Unconfirmed reports suggest there have been other attacks in addition. Choong said that pirates are becoming ‘more desperate’. Perhaps they are back with greater desperation after a Christmas break.