THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With last November’s Ockhi cyclone proving an eye-opener with regard to search and rescue operations, the Coast Guard has expedited expansion plans in the state capital.The much-delayed Coast Guard air enclave is expected to turn a reality in a few months’ time along with additional assets for offshore patrolling and maritime reconnaissance. If things pan out, the coastal security agency will soon have a Dornier fixed-wing aircraft as well as a Chetak helicopter stationed in Thiruvananthapuram with the air enclave finally showing definite signs of materialising. Though the proposal to create the enclave at the domestic terminal of the Thiruvananthapuram airport was green-lighted some time ago, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had wanted the land identified for the project to develop a cargo terminal.
Although alternate land was promised, the hand-over had been delayed until now. Senior Coast Guard officers on Tuesday said the air enclave project was finally back on track and was expected to materialise in a few months’ time. Likewise, the Coast Guard is also planning to have bigger ships stationed in Thiruvananthapuram in the near future. With this in mind, the agency is planning to construct a new 76-metre-long jetty at its facility at Vizhinjam, Coast Guard Commandant (Vizhinjam) V K Varghese said.For immediate requirements, the agency is planning to add one more interceptor vessel in Vizhinjam. This will take the total number of interceptors in Vizhinjam to two.
“The construction of the new jetty is expected to take one-and-a-half years. Once it materialises, bigger ships will be able to berth here,’’ Varghese said.
The Coast Guard also hopes to add more assets once the Vizhinjam port gets constructed.
The November 30 Ockhi cyclone had exposed the chinks in the search and rescue facilities down south. The Coast Guard and the Navy had to deploy assets from Kochi and elsewhere to search for the missing fishermen. The original air enclave proposal involved the stationing of two helicopters in Thiruvananthapuram so as to ensure speedy action in the event of contingencies in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts. But progress had been sluggish.
On the cards
The coastal security agency will soon have a Dornier fixed-wing aircraft as well as a Chetak helicopter stationed in Thiruvananthapuram with the air enclave finally showing definite signs of materialising
Senior Coast Guard officers on Tuesday said the air enclave project was finally back on track and was expected to materialise in a few months’ time