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Indian Coast Guard – Role and Capability Review

Published Nov 18, 2018
Updated Jun 16, 2020

The Indian Coast Guard Role and Requirement with Capability development envisages sustained development of this vital arm

Coast Guard Role and Requirement

India with 7517 km long coast line is a major maritime nation with vital economic and security interests linked to the seas and a huge Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.01 million square kilometers.

The need for setting up a Coast Guard arose directly as a result of the discussions at the 3rd Conference of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the early 70’s. The establishment of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) as a new service was the result of an awareness that had been growing for some time in the Government of India for the requirement to enforce national laws in the waters under national jurisdiction and ensure safety of life and property at sea. It was also considered desirable that these law enforcement responsibilities be undertaken by a service suitably equipped

UNCLOS extends jurisdiction of coastal States upto 200 nautical miles (NM), i.e. the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), for economic exploitation of maritime resources.

The Maritime Zones of India (MZI) Act was passed on 25th August 1976. Under this Act, India claimed 2.01 million sq km of sea area in which she would have exclusive rights for exploration and exploitation of resources, both living and non-living, at sea.

The ICG is therefore mandated to protect by such measures as it thinks fit the maritime and other national interests of India in the maritime zones of India.

Role of Coast Guard

Section 14 of Coast Guard Act, 1978 specifies the duties and functions of the service, mandating adoption of appropriate measures for inter alia the following main tasks:-

(a) Ensuring the safety and protection of artificial islands and offshore terminals, installations and other structures and devices in any maritime zone;

(b) Providing protection and assistance to fishermen at sea while in distress;

(c) Preservation and protection of marine environment;

(d) Prevention and control of marine pollution;

(e) Assisting the Customs and other authorities in anti-smuggling operations;

(f) Enforcing the provisions of such enactments as are for the time being in force in the maritime zones; and

(g) Such other matters including measures for the safety of life and property at sea and collecting of scientific data, as may be prescribed.

Capability of Coast Guard

Towards attaining these objectives the ICG is expected to achieve a force level of 150 platforms and 100 aircraft by 2018. The envisaged level of 154 ships, 123 boats and 139 aircraft is planned to be achieved by 2027.

The Indian Coast Guard has 42 Coast Guard Stations and 09 Air Establishments apart from various regional HQs and presence in district stations.

[Source : Public Accounts Committee (2015-16) Twenty-First Report Sixteenth Lok Sabha Lok Sabha Secretariat New Delhi. August, 2015]

On 17 November the Consultative Committee Meeting of Ministry of Defence on Indian Coast Guard was chaired by Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman which reviewed the operational preparedness, Infrastructure development and coastal security mechanism of the Coast Guard. Raksha Mantri and the delegation was briefed about the coastal security mechanism and preparedness of Coast Guard to tackle maritime emergencies. Coast Guard’s initiative of making fishermen the Eyes and Ears of Coast Guard was appreciated.

Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman laid emphasis on modernization of the ICG with the Definitive Action Program 2017 – 22 which envisages acquisition of 43 ships, 20 aircraft and other infrastructure.

On attaining the force levels, it is anticipated that the ICG will be suitably capable of performing the role assigned.

The Indian Coast Guard Role and Requirement with Capability development thus envisages sustained development through the five year plans till 2022.