Better regulation needed for private armed guards on merchant ships: Antony

NEW DELHI: Holding that “better regulation” was required for commercial vessels carrying private armed security guards in¬†Indian maritime zones, defence minister A K¬†Antony¬†has directed the government agencies concerned to soon formulate¬†an action plan¬†on the entire matter.

Chairing a top-level inter-ministerial meeting oncoastal security¬†on Tuesday, Antony said the issue of “floating armouries with private armed guards” should be taken up in international forums like the International Maritime Organisation by the Indian agencies.

“Antony directed¬†the home ministry¬†and shipping ministry to come out with a plan of action and regulations on the issue at the earliest, holding that it had assumed significance in the backdrop of recent incidents close to the Indian coast,” said an official.

With mounting piracy attacks in the sea lanes of the Gulf of Aden and the larger Indian Ocean Region, merchant vessels have taken to hiring well-armed security guards to protect their cargos. This has generated some concern in India especially after two Indian fishermen were allegedly killed by Italian marines onboard an oil tanker off the Kerala coast in February, 2012.

Last month, a US-owned ship was also intercepted by the Coast Guard for allegedly transporting weapons and ammunition off the Tamil Nadu coast in Indian waters. The arrest of the 10 crew members and 25 security guards has generated another round of controversy.

During the meeting, attended by national security advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon, Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi, defence secretary R K Mathur and others, Antony also reviewed several schemes initiated for coastal security after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes like mandatory registration of fishing boats, biometric identity cards, formation of state maritime boards, the coastal radar network and the like.

With the progress of the different schemes being very tardy in some states like Maharashtra and West Bengal, Antony said there was no room for any delay or slackness on matters of coastal security. “He said a fully seamless and integrated approach by all the stakeholders is imperative for achieving a gap-free coastal security environment in the country,” said the official.


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