The shipping department will be the nodal agency to bring all Indian vessels under a 'single registration regime' and ensure that they are equipped with communication devices in order to boost coastal security.
The initiative came from the Centre after concerns were raised over the vulnerability of boats plying in Indian waters, official sources said. The move is an attempt to avoid a repeat of the M V Kuber-like incident, in which lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists had overpowered the fishing trawler to reach Mumbai, before launching a terror strike in the city that claimed 166 lives.
"It has been decided that all type of vessels, whether fishing or non-fishing, will be registered under a single registration regime," sources said.
To further boost the security of Indian boats, it has been decided to equip them with navigational and communication equipments so that they can approach coastal security agencies in case of emergency. The equipment will also help the security agencies to keep a track of all the boats and regulate and monitor their movements in case of any distress call made from the vessels.
"The Department of Shipping has been designated as the nodal department in respect of these two matters and it is accordingly taking adequate steps in this regard," a senior home ministry official said.
Recently, Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandhan had said that boats plying around Mumbai were as vulnerable as they were a year ago, when the 26/11 terror attack took place. He had lamented that fishermen could not be forced to install the Global Positioning System, which could help in locating them during any crisis situation, unless the state provides it to them.
Meanwhile, the home ministry has also created joint operation centres to streamline the intelligence sharing mechanism and coordinated operations among the Navy, Coast Guard, Coastal Police and Customs.
The department of fisheries, under the Union agriculture ministry, has been entrusted to issue identity cards to all the fishermen in coastal areas, the home ministry official said. In addition, the Registrar General of India is also taking necessary measures for issuance of multi-purpose national identity cards in all coastal villages, he said.