KOCHI: With increasing incidence of mid-sea collision and fishing boats violating the international maritime borders, the government is mulling installation of transponders which can facilitate satellite communication and help trace the location of the boats. A month ago, Tamil Nadu Fisheries Department had installed transponders on six fishing boats, which reported for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by Indian Ocean Tuna Commission for fishing in British Indian Ocean Territory waters. The transponders were installed based on direction from the Union Government to track the movement of these vessels which pose a security risk to the nation.
In June 2016, 19 Indian fishermen including six Keralites, were detained by the British Navy for over a month, off Diego Garcia, around 2,100 km away from Kochi coast. On March 1, 2017, 32 fishermen from Kerala and Tamil Nadu were detained by the British Navy off Diego Garcia on the same charges.
Among the 15-member crew of fishing boat Al Ameen 9 persons were from Poonthura, Vizhinjam and Ernakulam, while nine of the 17-member crew of fishing boat Mermaid were from Pulluvila, Vizhinjam and Parassala. Al Ameen was a Kerala boat, while Mermaid was registered in Tamil Nadu.
Kerala Fisheries Department
The Kerala Fisheries Department is considering a proposal to install similar transponders in around 3,800 trawl boats and 600 gill net boats operating from Kochi coast. The Mobile Satellite Services based two-way data terminal enables vessel tracking with two-way data communication capabilities. The transponder has been developed by Alpha Design Technologies, Bengaluru, under the guidance of ISRO.
The two-way MSS Terminal for vessel tracking is a maritime solution for tracking bulk numbers of vessels on Indian waters and their behavioural pattern from a control centre. It is a secure way as the communication channel does not use the present dedicated wireless networks for obtaining the location of the vessels. It helps to trace the location of the vessel, communicate with the crew members and send e-mail messages through satellite communication network.
The security agencies are of the opinion the transponder will help curb violation of maritime boundaries, which poses a security threat. The transponder is priced around `50,000 but the government is expected to distribute it at a subsidised rate. Officers said for a fishing boat which costs around Rs 1.5 crore, installing the transponder will not be a burden.
"The advantage of the transponder is it helps trace the vessel and issue a warning message to the fishermen during emergency situations like cyclones. It will help to avoid mid sea collisions as the radar of the ship will be able to notice the presence of the fishing vessel," Fisheries Department Deputy Director S Mahesh.