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India’s port and coastal security still has gaping holes

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-07-2017 Shaswati Das

New Delhi: Nearly nine years after the Mumbai terror attacks, India’s port and coastal security still has gaping holes. While the attacks made India sit up and begin work on its coastal security apparatus, a look at the country’s ports security provides a reality check.

While the ministry of home affairs had extended the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) cover to 16 of India’s major ports, two of those major ports—the Port Blair Port Trust and CSY Cochin—still lack radiation detection equipment, documents accessed by Mint reveal.

According to the home ministry’s data, there are 227 minor ports in the country, of which 64 handle export-import (EXIM) cargo. Out of these 64 ports, 54 are international ship and port security (ISPS) compliant, while ISPS compliance has been proposed for the remaining 10.

While the Intelligence Bureau (IB) conducted a security audit of these minor ports last year in November, it was found that out of 227 minor ports, 187 had minimal security cover, while 75 of the 187 had no security cover at all.

At the same time, while the home ministry had cleared the setting up of radiation detection equipment in 16 of the major ports in 2011, six years on, two of these ports have yet to receive the equipment.

Intelligence officials have warned that security needed to be beefed up to insulate the vulnerable points of ports as well.

“The channel between anchorage (where a ship is anchored) to the port is about one to two kilometres. This point is extremely vulnerable to crimes of different magnitudes and in India there are 187 such ports which could fall prey to this,” said a senior intelligence officer, who did not wish to be identified.

The official also added that security checks at entry and exit points at ports were largely intelligence based—the human network for which needed to be made stronger.

The IB, in November, had made several recommendations after the home ministry had stated that the security concern at minor ports needed to be addressed. While the setting up of a CCTV network across these ports and a boundary wall were some of the recommendations that had been suggested, the home ministry continues to drag its feet on the matter.

It also added that security guidelines had been issued to the states to bolster security arrangements at the minor ports.

“The responsibility for security arrangements for minor ports in the country vests with the respective state governments and union territories. Upgradation of security infrastructure of minor ports is a continuous process. The state maritime board also reviews the security of minor ports,” said a senior home ministry official.

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