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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Juhu Beach Headache: Ghost ship sinks India's coastal defences claims!

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Vinaya Deshpande, Meena Menon & Praveen Swami, The Hindu / MUMBAI, August 3, 2011.

Children play near m.v. Pavit, a Panama-flagged vessel that ran aground on the Juhu beach.
Children play near m.v. Pavit, a Panama-flagged vessel that ran aground on the Juhu beach - AP.

m.v. Pavit drifted undetected for over 100 hours to Mumbai's shores
India's post-26/11 coastal defences have been brutally exposed by Pavit, a 1,000-tonne Panama-flagged merchant vessel, which ran aground on Mumbai's Juhu shore on Sunday, undetected by the new, three-tier security ring on which at least Rs. 700 million has been spent.
The ship, which was abandoned by its crew last month and reported sunk, drifted for more than a hundred hours through India's maritime territory before being detected late on Sunday afternoon.
The Navy, responsible for security beyond 12 nautical miles; the Coast Guard, which patrols the zone between 5 and 12 nautical miles; and the newly created maritime police, all failed to detect it.
There was no official word, though, on who was responsible for the failure — the second in recent weeks of an abandoned ship being washed up here.
In October 2010, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said India had made “significant progress” in improving its coastal defences since 26/11. In particular, he pointed to the setting up of control rooms to coordinate patrolling by the Navy, the Coast Guard and the maritime police.
Alarmed by a series of pirate attacks on maritime traffic off India's shores, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in January this year that coastal security was on the government's “immediate agenda.”
Satish Agnihotri, Director-General of Shipping, said inquiries were needed to establish “for nearly 100 hours when the ship was in Indian waters why the detection did not happen.” He refused comment, though, on who might have been responsible, saying it would not “be appropriate on my part to talk about the sister agencies.”
Long-standing fears
Long-standing fears that terrorists could exploit gaps in India's coastal defences were underlined on 26/11, when a 10-man Lashkar-e-Taiba assault team sailed undetected into the city on a hijacked fishing boat. Experts have since warned that terrorists could also load ships with explosives, or even biological and chemical weapons.

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