[Exclusive] This Indian Company Has Made Indian Coasts Impenetrable With NavIC based Satellite Surveillance System

[Exclusive] This Indian Company Has Made Indian Coasts Impenetrable With NavIC based Satellite Surveillance System
[Exclusive] This Indian Company Has Made Indian Coasts Impenetrable With NavIC based Satellite Surveillance System

This is a Guest Post by Mr.Vivek Kimbahune, Executive Vice President – Sales & Business Development, Saankhya Labs.

NavIC based indigenous satellite surveillance system – A boon for India’s Coastal Security

In 2008, India witnessed one of its worst terrorist attacks in which as many as 166 precious lives were lost and many others injured in the 26/11 Mumbai mayhem. The perpetrators from across the border hijacked an Indian fishing trawler boat and used the sea route to enter the Indian territory. 

Frequent incidents of intrusion and unprovoked action continue to pose a serious threat to our national security and fishermen safety. Earlier this month, India filed a case against 10 Pakistan Navy personnel for firing on an Indian trawler boat, killing one Indian fisherman and injuring another. To avoid such incidents in future, India needs to up the ante and remain vigilant to deter any kind of aggression it’s citizen’s and assets. 

Post 26/11, India has taken several steps to implement a comprehensive coastal monitoring, control and surveillance system. Notable amongst them is an indigenous Two-way mobile satellite service (MSS) network developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the purpose of Vessel tracking.

ISRO and Indian Navy did a proof-of-concept trial, and later ISRO commissioned a project to conduct field trials of the indigenous Vessel Tracking System (VTS) based on NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation). Over 1000 fishing vessels in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Puducherry were equipped with VTS and on successful completion of field trials, a report was submitted in 2019 for further action.

Multi-stakeholder, multi-benefit platform

From a coastal security perspective, the aim of the project was to connect all the sub-20-meter fishing vessels to a unified platform via ISRO’s satellites. The VTS can provide data to operational centres of Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guards for better co-ordination in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) of coastline. Besides strengthening the information dissemination mechanism amongst India’s maritime security agencies, the VTS enables maritime data fusion at The Information Management and Analysis Center (IMAC) that links information from high seas and India’s coastline and island territories. VTS also enhances the technical surveillance infrastructure at The National Command, Control, Communication, and Intelligence (NC3I) Network. During distress situations it also aids Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in search and rescue operations.

The indigenous Vessel Tracking and monitoring system not only strengthens the coastal security, but it also offers value added benefits to all maritime stakeholders including Department of fisheries, fishermen, fish boat owners and fishing communities. The state department of fisheries can maintain a central electronic database of fishing vessels. It also helps to regulate movement of fishing vessel and identify illegal, unregistered, and unreported vessels in the territorial waters. It facilitates optimum utilization of department resources and provides as a backbone for other services such as subsidy claim, fuel permit, insurance claims and crew movements. 

For the fishermen, the VTS offers numerous benefits including their well-being and safety. It provides the fishermen weather alerts from India Meteorological Department (IMD), and Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) information from Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS). Additionally, it provides a satellite based two-way messaging platform between the ship and shore and vice-versa. During a distress situation, the fishermen can send a SoS to the command-and-control centre and seek help. The location information of the boat in distress helps the search and rescue team to mobilize assistance as needed, thus ensuring fishermen safety. 

The VTS also helps the fish boat owner to monitor the movement of the boat, estimate time of arrival, and assess the quality & quantity of the catch and strike a deal even before the boat arrives to the shore.

Mandated but unimplemented

Given its enormous benefits, The National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS) took a decision in September 2019 to make provisions for implementation of the VTS on priority. 

Earlier last year, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed over ISRO transponders (VTS) to fishermen at a public function in Tumkuru, Karnataka. He had emphasized ISRO’s navigation device on fishing vessels will ensure fishermen safety and aid in their prosperity. It was expected to be rolled out for the benefit of the fishermen by all coastal states. While the intent from the top was right, it is yet to pan out on ground as envisioned by the prime minister.

As of today, only Department of Fisheries, Tamil Nadu has commissioned a project to install VTS on about 5400 sub-20-meter fishing vessels. The project is being rolled out by ISRO in collaboration with its industry partners. 

Despite the subsidy available under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), rest of the coastal states are yet to initiate the process for deployment of VTS. This may be due to state department of fisheries considering coastal security as a central subject, beyond their purview, and disregarding the directive on VTS.

If all the Indian states take an independent approach, it may lead to duplication of effort and result in incongruous, complicated, unsecure networks. The issue needs to be addressed by the centre on war footing. Lack of clear mandate is endangering India’s coastal security and fishermen safety. 

Atmanirbhar in Satcom

Companies such as Saankhya Labs which is ISRO’s trusted partner, has indigenously designed and developed ‘Navdoot’ a compact, Two-way MSS Vessel Tracking Terminal. Powered by its award-winning Software Defined Radio (SDR) chipset, Navdoot is developed in partnership with ISRO. Currently, it is being deployed as part of the VTS network commissioned by Department of Fisheries, Tamil Nadu. Saankhya Labs is also setting up the hub-user NMS and a Command-and-Control centre for satellite-based tracking and monitoring of the fishing vessels registered with the department of fisheries, Tamil Nadu.

India is uniquely positioned to leverage on an end-to-end indigenous Vessel tracking system, operating on India’s own independent regional navigational and communication satellite system. 

To address India’s coastal security requirements, a clear, unambiguous government order to mandate installation of indigenous NavIC based Vessel tracking system on all fishing vessels sailing in Indian territorial waters is vital. Deploying indigenous technology in the service of the nation will not only secure our vast coastline, but will also be a huge shot in the arm for true Atmanirbharta in Satcom!

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