Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs), built by Goa Shipyard Ltd, at the new Kochi coastal police station, in Fort, Kochi. The Home Ministry is paying for 204 FIBs for 73 new stations
By Ajai Shukla
Bangalore, Business Standard, 27th Nov 10
At least one of the lessons of the Mumbai terror strike of 26/11 --- when ten Laskhar-e-Toiba terrorists set out from Karachi, hijacked an Indian fishing boat, the MV Kuber, and sailed into the heart of Mumbai undetected --- have been fully absorbed by the government. The approaches to India’s coastline will soon be amongst the most carefully watched waters in the world.
In the aftermath of 26/11, the apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) issued detailed orders, and allocated funds, to implement a Coastal Surveillance Scheme, to ensure a 24x7x365 watch over India’s 7600-kilometre coastline so that no hostile elements could sneak in by sea again.
The Coastal Surveillance Scheme is ready for implementation. It relies on a chain of electro-optic sensors --- i.e. radars, and day and night cameras --- that are being installed on lighthouses and towers that look out at the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The key challenge in setting up the scheme has been in transmitting the data picked up from multiple sensors all along the coast to surveillance centres located in the interior, and then integrating that data into a coherent operational picture.
That problem has now been solved, says defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which is putting the finishing touches on the software for the Coastal Surveillance Scheme. On a visit to BEL Bangalore, Business Standard was demonstrated how the Rs 700 crore system would function within a Remote Operating Station, the name for the Coast Guard surveillance centre that would be receiving data from a chain of lighthouses and towers along the coast. Advanced “data fusion” techniques are then employed to integrate all that information.
“Data fusion has been a key design challenge”, affirms BEL’s R&D chief, I V Sarma. “If two adjoining radars pick up a single boat, which often happens, the software must recognised that and combine those two images into that of a single boat. Fortunately, BEL had built up enormous experience in data fusion while developing the navy’s Combat Management Systems, which also integrates the inputs from multiple radars on board a warship; and also while building an Integrated Air Command and Control System for the IAF.”
Besides integrating multiple inputs into a common operational picture, the software allows the Remote Operating Station to remotely manipulate its coastal radars and cameras --- through a Camera Management System --- to observe suspicious objects in greater detail. In a quick demonstration staged for Business Standard, an oil tanker, which had been detected by a thermal-imaging night vision camera at a distance of 36 kilometers from the coast, was declared a suspicious vessel. A click by the operator on the oil tanker’s screen image automatically fed its coordinates to the camera, which zoomed in quickly, giving the operator a detailed look.
“The cameras and radars are Israeli”, admit the BEL operators, “but we are working on developing them indigenously.”
The software also performs other tasks that include monitoring the health of the remote systems; and an alarm system that alerts the operators when a vessel enters a designated “sensitive zone”;
In Phase 1, the coast guard is setting up 46 electro-optic sensor stations in high-threat areas, and 12 Remote Operating Stations. This will be expanded in Phase 2 to cover the entire coastline within three years. The most recent installations are radar stations in Dwarka and Navodra, which feed into a Remote Operating Station at Porbandar, about 100 km away. Distance is irrelevant, with data being transmitted through two dedicated lines of 2 MBPS each.
The 12 Remote Operating Stations feed into one of four Regional Operating Centres at Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai and Visakhapatanam. Finally, all this information is fed in real time to the apex Control Centre at New Delhi, where it is integrated into a single national-level picture.
For this, the Ministry of Home Affairs is the nodal agency but coordinates with multiple agencies, including the coastal state governments; the fisheries department; the department of lighthouses and lightships; and port authorities, amongst others.