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Coastal Security after 26/11 Attacks - Information Management and Analysis Centre

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November 28, 2020

What is the issue?

  • The Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) will soon become a National Maritime Domain Awareness (NDMA) centre.
  • Also, 2020 marks the 12th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks; here is a look at coastal security in India after the 26/11 attacks.

How do the security mechanisms work?

  • The Indian Navy is responsible for overall maritime security (coastal and offshore).
  • It is supposed to be assisted in coastal security by the Coast Guard, State Marine Police and other agencies.
  • Post 26/11, the Coast Guard was additionally designated as the authority responsible for coastal security in territorial waters.
  • Thrust was given to enhance surveillance in territorial waters by all agencies including the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police, and Customs.

What was the need for IMAC?

  • The ten Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists who carried out the 26/11 attacks had entered Mumbai through the sea, using inflatable speedboats.
  • In the aftermath of the attacks, several vulnerabilities of coastal security came to the fore.
  • The IMAC was created so that another act like the 26/11 attacks do not take place.

What is IMAC?

  • To ensure that the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police work in an integrated manner, the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) was set up in 2014.
  • Based in Gurgaon, IMAC is the nodal centre for maritime security information collation and dissemination.
  • It is jointly operated by the Navy and Coast Guard.
  • It is the cornerstone of the National Command Control Communication and Intelligence (NC3I) network.
    • The NC3I network is for monitoring maritime traffic in India’s area of interest.
  • IMAC’s task is to facilitate exchange of maritime security information among various national stakeholders, and generate a common operational picture.
  • Since threats in maritime domain have a transnational character, IMAC feeds data from international sources as well.
  • It is important to note that IMAC tracks only non-military or commercial ships, known as white shipping.
  • Military ships, or grey hull ships, are tracked by the Directorate of Naval Operations, as this is on a classified network.

What is its scope?

  • IMAC focuses on ships passing through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
    • The IOR, 5500 nautical miles wide by 7500 nm long, includes 35 countries.
    • It is the busiest maritime trade route, with 11,000 to 12,000 ships present in it at any given time.
  • Officers at its headquarters can look at all ships that transmit signals to an Automatic Identification System (AIS) when passing through IOR.
  • They can look at information including route, destination, nationality and ownership for each vessel.
  • And at any given point, IMAC can get data points such as how many Chinese vessels are in the region or how many vessels are headed to a particular port.
    • E.g. Sources suggest a “steady rise” of Chinese research vessels in the IOR over the last few years.
    • The data also show an increase in Chinese fishing vessels in the high seas in IOR, from approximately 300 four years ago to around 450 now.
  • IMAC can also check if a vessel has changed its identity, or if it has been involved in law-enforcement issues in other countries.
  • IMAC has linkages with a number of national and international organisations, from which it collates data, and analyses patterns.
  • It also alerts relevant authorities if anything is found suspicious.
  • The following are some of the sources for data for IMAC:
  1. The Vessel and Air Traffic Management System under the Petroleum Ministry.
  2. The National Automatic Identification System (AIS), which has 87 stations.
  3. The Long-Range Identification and Trading Information from 174 countries, which comes from the Directorate General of Shipping.
  4. Space-based AIS that provide information on offshore and deep sea vessels, etc.
  5. The Indian Ports Authority, information from which has been integrated recently.
  • These data are then analysed with various tools that create a comprehensive picture for each vessel.

What are the shortfalls to be addressed?  

  • When a vessel does not transmit any information about itself through the AIS, it is known as a dark ship.
  • There are limited options to track them.
  • After 26/11, it was critical for India to have a robust tracking system for all fishing vessels.
  • However, while some big vessels may choose to not transmit on AIS, many of India’s smaller shipping vessels have no transponders.
    • Of the 2.9 lakh fishing vessels in India, around 60% are smaller than 20 m, most of them without transponders.
  • ISRO has been trying to develop a solution for fishing vessel tracking over the last one decade.
  • These gaps are exploited by subversive elements.
  • Certainly fishermen’s boat integration with IMAC will guard coastal frontiers better.


Source: The Indian Express

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