Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coast guard to triple fleet size by 2020


The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will triple its fleet size from the existing 100 vessels to 300 ships by 2020, ICG Director General Vice Admiral Anil Chopra said here Monday. The maritime security force will also double its aviation wing's strength from the present 50 to 100 aircraft, apart from raising  its manpower to 20,000 personnel from the existing 12,000 in the next one decade.
"We will be tripling our size from the 2008-end levels in this decade, apart from doubling the aircraft fleet and manpower in the period," Vice Admiral Chopra said at an annual press conference on the eve of Coast Guard Day Tuesday.
First, he disclosed, the coast guard would double its ship strength to 200 vessels by 2012. It already has about 160 vessels on orders with Indian shipyards, Chopra said, adding that the increase in strength would be achieved despite some of its older ships being de-commissioned this decade.
He said the government has given its approval for a proposal to buy 30 new helicopters for the coast guard and for leasing eight surveillance helicopters. The leased helicopters would be based in Mumbai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar.
"Aviation is a complex business. This is the first time that the defence ministry is leasing helicopters... there are several legal issues that need to be considered and hence the slight delay in the leasing of the helicopters. Any aircraft acquisition takes about two to three years for signing contract and another two to three years before the supplier can deliver," he said.
Vice Admiral Chopra said Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had supplied a helicopter to the coast guard last year. It had been ordered before the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008. Three more helicopters were expected to be supplied by March this year.
The defence ministry has also placed orders for four Dornier patrol aircraft to augment the existing strength of 24 Dorniers. These aircraft were expected to be delivered by April this year.
Also, the government had in 2009 sanctioned acquisition of 12 more aircraft, taking the total strength to 40 Dorniers.
"We have signed a contract to upgrade the systems on the existing 24 Dorniers such as latest surveillance radars and infra-red sensors and automated identification system. These upgraded aircraft will be more capable after being retrofitted," he said.
On the training of coast guard personnel, Chopra said the government had sanctioned construction of an academy to train its officers on the lines of the Naval Academy. Though land had been identified in a couple of places, there were some pros and cons and it was yet to be finalised.
Asked when would the coast guard have a director general from its own cadre, instead of the current practice of appointments from the Navy for the top job, Chopra said the government had recently decided to have an additional director general in the ICG from its own cadre.
"In due course, the government will decide (on appointing ICG cadre officers as its director general)," he added.
Asked about the project to install a coastal surveillance network of radars and why it was moving at a slow pace, Chopra said the task was huge as radars would have to be placed atop 46 lighthouses, but most of these were over 100 years old.
He said the ICG, with help from Indian Institute of Technology and Bharat Electronic Limited, would carry out surveys and study the strength of the structures. "If there is delay due to these efforts, it is fine," he added.