The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Director General, Rakesh Pal, has said that the biggest achievement of the Indian Coast Guard in recent times has been the surface and air assets that are being deployed on regular basis, with about 55 to 60 ships and about ten to twelve aircraft every day out at sea. Director General Rakesh Pal, while speaking to ANI on the Coast Guard being very active lately and the achievements of the ICG in the last year, said, “It goes without saying that the Coast Guard is actually doing a human service to the nation.
Our biggest achievements have been our surface and air assets which we are deploying on a regular basis. On average, we are deploying about 55-60 ships and about 10-12 aircraft every day out at sea which means our coverage factor out at sea is quite good and our response mechanism to any incident is also very minimum.” Further speaking about the achievements of the ICG, Director General Rakesh Pal said, “In the last year, we have had many drug apprehension cases, maybe to the tune of about 480 crores or so.
We have even apprehended some weapons as well as yellow metals. Now, as far as search and rescue is concerned, we are always there out at the fringes of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). And on average, every second and third day, we are actually rescuing one or two seafarers, which also include the fisher folks. In terms of medical evacuation, we have been evacuating people by helicopter, also from ships that are transiting through our Indian EEZ, as far as even 100-150 km away.” “There was a super cyclone Biparjoy in which the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), rescued 50 of the oil rig people off the coast of Okha and brought back to the shore. So there have been numerous challenges to the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard has actually overcome all those challenges,” he said.
On being asked about how the ICG is keeping the EEZ safe amid increased drone and piracy attacks and keeping in mind the recent drone attack on India-bound merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea, the ICG Director General said that the ICG ships are there practically every 100 to 150 miles away from each other so the response mechanism to any of the incidents is quite minimal. “We have about 55-60 ships and about 10-12 aircraft which are out at sea every day.
Now, when I talk about aircraft, we have some helicopters that also fly from the deck of the ship. So what I’m trying to say over here is that our ships are there practically every 100 to 150 miles away from each other so our response mechanism to any of the incidents is quite minimal. In this case of a drone attack on Chem Pluto as well, one of our offshore patrol vessels was very close to the place of incident and we were the first responder, our ship reached there on time by seeing the Coast Guard ship, the merchant folks, the ship’s crew were quite confident.
They had requested the coast guard that they should escort them to Mumbai because the drone attack had taken place. There was a lot of damage to the stern of the vessel. And it was not known whether that in the drone attack there was any danger to the integrity of the ship,” said the ICG Director General. “So, as requested by the shipping company, we ensured that our ship escorted the merchant ship to Mumbai. We would have been towing that ship also had it developed a breakdown, machinery breakdown, et cetera. Plus, if there was another drone attack, then at least our ships are equipped to do external firefighting.
So we ensured that in this ship attack, the ship reached to its next port of call, Mumbai, so that the joint integration takes place and we could assert what actually was the chain of events. So what I’m trying to say over here is that it is not that the drone attack has taken place, that we are visible. Our ships are there all round the clock, and we are there to respond to any incident in just a fraction of time,” he added. In December 2023, an India-bound merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto with 20 Indian and 1 Vietnamese crew member caught fire after it was attacked by a suspected drone and was later secured by the Indian Coast Guard (ICG), ICG said in an official statement. Director General Rakesh Pal speaking on the steps taken by the ICG to prevent piracy coming towards the Indian coast said that the ICG has got eyes and ears everywhere. “We have got our aviation assets flying day and night.
We generally spot any ships or vessels which we identify as hostile. We generally track them down and see to it that there are no such vessels which are there in our water. If there are any ships that have their AI switched off or they are not responding to our VHF calls, et cetera, then we zero onto them and make sure that they are boarded. So our presence and the Coast Guard ships’ presence at sea and the aircraft flying act as a deterrence for the antisocial elements and antinational elements,” he said.
The ICG Director General also lauded the central government for backing the ICG in its modernization with full support in terms of budgetary allocation. “As far as modernization is concerned, the government of India and the Ministry of Defense are paying all attention to the Coast Guard modernization. In the last couple of months, we have signed a contract for about 21 ships with Mazagon Dock. There are two pollution control vessels also which are under construction at GSL and another eight fast patrol vessels are also under construction at GSL.
So when it comes to the modernization of our force, our modernization plan is going right on dot with the full support of the government in terms of budgetary allocation and in the near future also, we are planning to acquire and add more surface platforms as well as aviation assets which includes 9 ALH and about 8 Dorniers as well,” he said.
“So the modernization plan is right on track. And I must say that I feel very proud that most of the acquisitions are all Indian, we hardly have any foreign procurement even for our ships. We have to make sure that our government of India’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat is also toured by the Coast Guard and we are all for it and taking all necessary actions to identify local manufacturers so that our ships and aircraft are equipped with make-in-India,” he added. The ICG Director General further said that the MMMA (Maritime Multi-Mission Aircraft) is also likely to come as it has been going on for a long time now so the MMMA case for the Navy and the Coast Guard is likely to fructify shortly.