Coastal Border security

India’s long coast line presents a variety of security challenges including illegal landing of arms and explosives at isolated spots on the coast, infiltration/ex-filtration of anti-national elements, use of the sea and offshore islands for criminal activities, smuggling of consumer and intermediate goods through sea routes etc. Absence of physical barriers on the coast and presence of vital industrial and defence installations near the coast also enhance the vulnerability of the coasts to illegal cross border activities

Coastal Border Security

India has a 7,517-km coastline, which is dotted with 12 major ports and 187 minor or intermediate ports. India’s territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles while exclusive economic zone stretches to 200 nautical miles from the coast.

The Indian Ocean Region is of strategic importance to India’s security. A substantial part of India’s external trade and energy supplies pass through this region. The security of India’s Island territories, in particular, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands remains an important priority. Drug trafficking, sea-piracy and other clandestine activities such as gun-running are emerging as new challenges to security management in the Indian Ocean Region.

For securing the coast, the government of India has implemented a three layered mechanism. At the outermost layer, the Indian Navy patrols the high seas and carries out aerial reconnaissance with ship-based aircraft. The intermediate layer comprising of the Exclusive Economic Zone (between 12 and 200 nautical miles) is patrolled by the Coast Guard. And the territorial waters are patrolled by the Coastal Police.

Major ports of the country have been made International Ship and Port Security (ISPS) Code compliant. These ports are guarded by the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) personnel.

For the security of the Island Territories, the Indian Government has set up a joint command in Andaman and Nicobar called the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) comprising personnel of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard.


An Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a concept adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982), whereby a coastal State assumes jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, taken to be a band extending 200 nautical miles(M) from the shore.

  • The EEZ includes the contiguous zone. Countries also have rights to the seabed of what is called the continental shelf up to 350 nautical miles(M) from the coastal baseline, beyond the EEZ. But such areas are not part of their EEZ.
  • The legal definition of the continental shelf does not directly correspond to the geological meaning of the term, as it also includes the continental rise and slope, and the entire seabed within the exclusive economic zone.



Importance of coastal security

1. Economic Importance: India sits centrally at the crossroads of trans-Indian Ocean routes. Most cargo ships that sail between East Asia, America, Europe and Africa pass through Indian territorial waters. This has contributed hugely to India’s growth and played a significant role in making India one of the fastest growing economies in the world. This statement may be further substantiated by the fact that around 95% of India’s trade by volume and 70% by value is done through maritime transport.Most cargo ships that sail between East Asia, America, Europe and Africa pass through Indian territorial waters.

2. Strategic Importance:

3. Diplomatic Importance: African countries have a large coastline. This underlines the potential for cooperation in the maritime domain. Indian Ocean is a common factor and the Red Sea which laps the countries of the region is a major shipping link for India for both security and commerce.

Revision of Piracy High Risk Area (HRA)

October 2015

European Union Chair of the Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) has announced the revision of the limits of the piracy High Risk Area (HRA).

  • With this, India’s west coast has been excluded from piracy High Risk Area (HRA).
  • The decision will come into effect from December 1.


  • Consequent to the spread of piracy to the East Arabian Sea, the international shipping industry had extended the eastern limit of piracy HRA in June 2010 to 78oE longitude, thereby including the west coast of India within its ambit.

Why was india concerned about this?


  • This extension had led to security concerns on account of the presence of private security personnel onboard merchant vessels transiting the piracy HRA, and the presence of floating armouries off the Indian coast.
  • The shipping industry also incurred additional costs for insurance and implementation of various recommendations for transit through the piracy HRA.
  • The extended HRA also came near the Indian coastline up to as close as about 35 nautical miles from the baseline. This was an unwarranted encroachment into India’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).


What made this revision necessary?

  • Affirmative action and increased surveillance contributed towards the decline of piracy incidents in the East Arabian Sea. The last reported piratical activity in the East Arabian Sea was in March, 2012.
  • In addition to deployment of Indian Naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008 for anti-piracy patrols, robust action by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard led to the arrest of 120 pirates from four pirate ‘mother-ships’ between January-March 2011.
  • The absence of piracy in Indian maritime zones led to India seeking a review with support from many other countries.

This revision of the HRA boundary back to its original state should thus greatly reduce the insurance costs of Indian shipping companies. In total, this could save the industry $25 million.



Police stations to have wider jurisdiction over coasts

June 2016 

To end the ambiguity over jurisdiction in the wake of Italian marines case, 10 police stations located along India’s coastline have been empowered to register and investigate crimes committed within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Union Home Ministry has now extended the jurisdictional limits for notified police stations from the existing 12 nautical miles to 200 nautical miles into the high seas.

  • In this regard, the home ministry has invoked the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Act, 1976, and said the 10 police stations located on both east and west coasts can investigate any offence committed by any person within the EEZ.
  • The extension is an important development in allowing a greater say to local police while dealing with cases of smuggling and terrorism.\

Interceptor boat commissioned

November 2015

The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has commissioned an interceptor boat into its fleet to enhance its vigil along the coast in Bay of Bengal. The boat is named ICGS C-422.

About the vessel:

  • ICGS C-422 is among the 36 interceptor boats being built for the Coast Guard. It has been designed and built indigenously by M/s. Larsen and Toubro Ltd.
  • The 27.80-m-long boat can achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots. It is equipped with two diesel engines and will have an endurance of 500 nautical miles. It is also fitted with state-of-the-art communication and navigational equipment.
  • The interceptor boat is capable of undertaking multifarious tasks such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue and coordinated operations with sea and air units, sources said.


Fast Patrol Vessels ARUSH for Coast guard

May 2016

  • The Indian Coast Guard ship ‘Arush’, the seventeenth in the series of twenty Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs) was recently commissioned at Kochi. It is designed and built by M/s Cochin Shipyard Limited.


Indian Coast Guard ship ‘Shaurya’ commissioned in Goa

Aug 2017 

Indian Coast Guard ship “Shaurya”, the fifth in the series of six 105-metre offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), was recently commissioned in Goa.


Key facts:

  • The OPV, which draws 2,350 tonne and is propelled by 9100 kilowatt diesel engine, has been designed and built indigenously by Goa Shipyard Ltd and is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machineries.
  • The features include 30mm CRN 91 Naval Gun, integrated bridge system, integrated machinery control system, power management system and high-power external fire fighting system.
  • The ship is designed to carry one twin engine light helicopter and five high-speed boats, including two quick reaction inflatable boats for swift boarding operations, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol. The ship is also capable of carrying pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea.



Central Marine Police Force 

June 2016 

  • The government has approved proposal to set up a Central Marine Police Force to protect sea, coasts, ports and vital institutions along 7,516-km national coastline. The detailed structure, operations and modalities of the force will be worked out in the coming weeks. The decision to have a central command for Marine Police elicited support from all ministers and officials from across states and Union territories participating in the marathon meeting.


Though India is a peninsular country with two-third of its borders surrounded by water, it has been lenient in terms of the emphasis on its coastal and maritime security as compared to that on the security of its land borders. The trend of relatively less focus on coastal and maritime security has persisted despite the fact that there have been infiltrations across India’s coast in the form of smuggling and illicit trade.the threats to coastal security are varied and complex: 

  • The remoteness of the vast coastline makes coastal areas susceptible as boats can land stealthily without being detected. 
  • The creek areas of Gujarat and the Sunderbans are particularly vulnerable to clandestine activities as they are interconnected through small islands where mangroves and sandbars provide shelter. 
  • Dhows (large wooden boats), which are extensively used for trade, are often involved in illicit trade and smuggling. 
  • Fencing of land borders has increased infiltration through sea routes. 
  • Discovery of vast hydrocarbons within the Indian EEZ has complicated the situation.

  • Research and customisation are also important to synergise the technological systems used by the various agencies involved in coastal security. Seamless integration of capabilities is also essential in the case of hardware such as radars, cameras and AIS.
  • The gap between demand for security equipment and capacity of the domestic industries.

Government Initiatives and Schemes:

1.Coastal Security Scheme:

 In order to strengthen coastal security measures in the country, a CSS was launched in 2005 across all nine coastal states and four coastal UTs. The main objective of the scheme was to strengthen infrastructure of the marine police force in order to improve patrolling and surveillance of the coastal areas, especially the shallow areas close to the coast. The CSS was to be implemented in two phases.

Phase I to be launched in 2005 for a period of five years, which was later delayed by one year and ended up being completed in 2011(fuel, repair and maintenance of boats and training of personnel and assistance to all the coastal states and UTs to set up CPS, check posts, outposts and operational barracks. They were also equipped with boats, jeeps and motorcycles). 

Phase II was then implemented in 2011 for five years (to further strengthen marine police infrastructure with the establishment of more CPSs and purchase of additional boats, vehicles and jetties) which was again extended due to delays in implementation and is now likely to be completed by 31 March 2020.

2. International Ship and Port Facility Security Code:

The International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code is a comprehensive set of guidelines and regulations established for the security of ships and port facilities. Developed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in response to the 9/11 attacks, the code is constituted in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), an international maritime treaty. All 148 signatories of the treaty, including India, are required to comply with the ISPS Code.

3. Biometric ID cards for coastal fishermen 

The Centre’s sector scheme on the issuance of biometric ID cards to coastal fishermen at a total cost of 72 crore INR was launched by the Ministry of Fisheries on 2009.

4. Vessel tracking management systems 

Approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) under the MoD and deployed by the Indian Navy, eight coastal radars were set up within the frameworks of the National Command Control Communication Intelligence (NC3I) programme to help counter potential infiltration from terrorists and pirates.

5. Coastal Surveillance Network (CSN)

The CSN has been set up by the ICG to improve the coastal security mechanism in the country. This network comprises a chain of static sensors having radars, Autamatic Identification System (AIS), day/night cameras and met sensors at 46 locations along the coastline and islands.

6. Sagarmala 

Sagarmala is a series of projects designed to leverage India’s coastline and inland waterways to drive industrial development. The maritime sector in the country has faced several constraints in its development, mainly the lack of a cohesive institutional arrangement, weak infrastructure at ports and beyond, and limited economic benefit to the region and the community at large. The key objective of the Sagarmala series of projects is to develop port infrastructure in India to provide for quick, efficient and cost-effective transport to and from ports.

It also includes the establishment of rail/ road linkages with port terminals, which will result in last mile connectivity to ports, development of linkages with new regions and enhanced multi-modal connectivity, including rail, inland water, coastal and road services. The main aim of the project is to utilise the country’s 7,517 km coastline, 14,500 km of potentially navigable waterways, and strategic locations on key international maritime trade routes.

9. Operation Swan 

In response to the 1993 Mumbai blasts, Operation Swan was launched in April 1993 as a joint operation of the Indian Navy and the ICG in conjunction with the respective state administration. The primary aim of this operation was to prevent the unauthorised and illegal entry of men and landing of arms, explosives and contraband along the coast of Gujarat and Maharashtra by sea. It also focused on obtaining intelligence about unusual movements or activities of personnel near the coastline having a bearing on security and to facilitate immediate actions to stall attempts at violating the sea frontiers for nefarious purposes.

Way forward to overcome Challenges:

  • Address manpower shortage for the coastal police
  • Enlist people from coastal villages in the Coastal Police Force.
  • Consider incentives such as special allowances and insurance to overcome the reluctance of police personnel to carry out coastal patrolling. 
  • Impart extensive and specialised training to the Coastal Police personnel to change their indifferent attitude.
  • Impose steep fines on fishermen found violating the international boundary. On repeated violation, cancel the licences of offending fishing boats.
  • Consolidation of various stakeholders
  • More cooperation between State and Central government agencies
  • Inclusion of private players in maritime security
  • All coastal states and UTs to set up maritime boards
  • More emphasis on port security infrastructure
  • Strengthening the human intelligence (HUMINT) capability
  • Setting up of a multi-disciplinary National Maritime Authority (NMA) under the aegis of MHA
  • Enactment of the Coastal Security Bill which has been pending since 2013
  • Induction of hovercraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of the CSS
  • Increased interaction with other countries so as to adopt and customise the best practices being followed by them

Last modified: Wednesday, 23 October 2019, 8:01 PM