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Defence & Security

National Maritime Commission – India’s apex body for maritime challenge

National Maritime Commission – India’s apex body for maritime challenge


  • GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || Coastal Threats & Security

Why in the news?

India will now finally have an apex federal body to handle all maritime affairs, from the coastline to the high seas, and ensure cohesive policy-making and effective coordination among the multiple authorities dealing with such issues in the country.

India will now finally have an apex federal body to handle all maritime affairs:

  • From the coastline to the high seas, and ensure cohesive policy-making and effective coordination among the multiple authorities dealing with such issues in the country.
  • “The organizational structure of a National Maritime Commission (NMC) has been worked out after inter-ministerial consultations. It is in the final stages now, requiring only the nod of the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS).
  • The exact contours of the NMC, which will “integrate” all the users operating along the coast as well as on the high seas, are not yet in the public domain.
  • It’s likely to be headed by a “national maritime security coordinator” to usher in synergy among different stakeholders, ranging from central ministries and departments (home, shipping, fisheries etc) and state governments to the Navy, Coast Guard, customs, intelligence agencies and port authorities.
  • India needs a “full-time framework” to handle the “vast and critical” maritime domain, which has too many players who often work at cross-purposes with diffuse responsibilities
  • The necessity for such an apex body has been stressed in the past also. But it could never take concrete shape due to turf wars, among other things. After the deadly 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, for instance, a maritime security advisory board(MSAB), with a maritime security advisor as its chief, figured on the CCS agenda.

About costal security:

Following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the maritime security arrangement underwent a paradigm change, with a greater focus on surveillance, intelligence collection, and information sharing among the various stakeholders to ensure an effective response to any emerging situation.

Threats to Coastal Security:

  • Smuggling and Trafficking: Smuggling has been a problem along the Indian coasts. For a long time, gold, electronic goods, drugs, and weapons have been smuggled through the sea.
  • Piracy and Armed Robbery: Since piracy occurs on the high seas, it does not come under the purview of coastal defense. In India, however, groups of criminals have been engaging in “acts of abuse and imprisonment” akin to piracy in the shallow waters of the Sundarbans. The gangs kidnap fishermen’s boats and hold them hostage for ransom.
  • Maritime Terrorism: Maritime terrorism is described as “the commission of terrorist acts and activities in the maritime environment, using or against ships or fixed platforms at sea or in port.” Attacks on shopping centers, ports, and other strategic installations, and attacks on ships are all on the rise.
  • Fishermen straying outside the Maritime Boundary: The repeated straying of fishermen into neighboring country waters has posed national security concerns as well as jeopardized the fishermen’s protection. Fishermen who trespass into the waters of a neighboring country are almost always seized, along with their vessels.
  • Terrorist/militant infiltration, illegal migration, and refugee influx: India’s land borders have always been porous to terrorist/militant infiltration and large-scale illegal migration. These large-scale influxes have caused widespread political instability in the Border States over the years.

The measures introduced by government are:

  • When it comes to coastal defense, the Navy and Coast Guard are working together more efficiently. Both have started working together in their own jurisdictions.
  • The Indian government has approved ICG to purchase new interceptor vessels, open more police stations, and increase its manpower capabilities as part of a coastal protection scheme.
  • Intelligence sharing and regular training of personnel of different concerned agencies in order to prevent compartmentalized thinking. So, that an institutional framework can be established.
  • Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) which will act as a single point reference interlinking the newly inducted coastal radar chain. The importance also lies in it being a joint venture between the Navy and the Coast Guard.
  • National Maritime Domain Awareness (NDMA): It aims to integrate several agencies to one fold.
  • Coastal Security Scheme (CSS): CSS was launched in 2005 across all nine coastal states and four coastal UTs. The main objective of the scheme was to strengthen infrastructure of the marine police force in order to improve patrolling and surveillance of the coastal areas,
  • Installation of Automatic Identification Systems and Joint Operation Centers (JOCs): These JOCs are manned 24×7 jointly by the teams of the Indian Navy, the Indian Coast Guard, and the Marine Police using commissioning of radar stations along the coastline.
  • Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN): Comprises of Chain of Static Sensors (CSS) including radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT), Day & Night cameras, communication systems.
  • Fast Interceptor Crafts (FICs) and Immediate Support Vessels (ISVs): Towards strengthening the Coastal and offshore security, Fast Interceptor Crafts (FICs) and Immediate Support Vessels (ISVs) are being inducted into the Indian Ocean.
  • Training centers for Coastal Security Group, Increased marine Police stations in coastal states.
  • The Sea Vigil Exercise is the world’s largest coastal exercise, involving the Indian navy and coast guard, state marine police, state police, port authorities, and state fishing departments, as well as fishing communities, to test safeguard measures along India’s coastline.

What are the key challenges?

  • Research and customization issues: Synergies between the technological systems used by the various agencies involved in coastal protection, such as the installation of radars, cameras, and AIS, are also significant. This necessitates the stakeholders’ creation of India-specific creative solutions and analysis.
  • Structural Gap: Not enough attention has been given to providing police stations with critical requirements such as proper preparation for their staff for sea operations, sufficient fuel and funds for the service and maintenance of the vessels, and police station buildings, among others.
  • Domestic manufacturing base there is a scarcity of manufacturing capacity to meet the demand for security equipment. To achieve self-sufficiency by 2025, India must begin investing heavily in the manufacturing of security equipment. The conditions for forming joint ventures under the proposed FDI policy, which sets a ceiling of 49 percent for foreign investors, need to be revisited.
  • Technology: According to the most recent audit, only around 1,000 ships were currently fitted with the tracking system. This coverage must be significantly expanded in order to provide a reliable estimate of maritime traffic.
  • Coastal Regulation Zone regulations: There is concern that CRZ laws are being weakened in favor of tourism and shrimp farming, with little regard for security concerns..
  • Multi-level structure: There are about 15 organizations involved in different aspects of coastal protection, resulting in inefficient resource allocation, which is one of the main roadblocks to implementing coastal security initiatives.

Best Practices across the globe:

  • United States: Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Customs Service developed the Container Security Initiative (CSI). CSI recommends a security regime that will ensure that any containers that may pose a terrorist threat are detected and inspected at international ports before being loaded onto ships bound for the United States..
  • Japan: The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is the naval branch of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, and is responsible for the country’s naval defense. Surveillance is something that the JMSDF does on a regular basis.
  • France: The French government has developed a national inter-ministerial structure to strengthen the fight against maritime insecurity, which is focused on a study of short- and medium-term maritime risks and threats.

Way forward:

  • National commercial maritime security policy document: It must also promulgate a National Strategy for Commercial Maritime Security to ensure that port and shipping facilities are protected in an accessible, organized, and successful manner.
  • Greater participation of coastal police: Rather than establishing a border defense force with no legal authority, authorities should work to improve and better incorporate coastal police into the littoral security architecture.
  • Marine Police Training: MHA will focus on marine police training, with the recruitment of talented local fishermen and the provision of benefits such as sea duty allowances..
  • Monitoring and interagency coordination: India needs a more comprehensive surveillance system. Aside from speeding up the construction of coastal radar chains and National Automatic Identification System (AIS) stations and ensuring wide access to information, authorities must mandate the installation of AIS on all power-driven vessels over 10 meters in length.
  • Establishment of a joint technical cadre as well as logistics infrastructure for the maintenance of patrol boats in order to resolve problems with operational availability of these assets.

Mains oriented question:

The incident of 26/11 drew our attention towards focusing on our vulnerability along coastal area and its better monitoring. The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) is still ill-equipped to carry out its expanded function and meet today’s challenges. Examine the situation critically. (250 words)