HOW COAST GUARD CONDUCTED A HISTORIC OPERATION OFF THE COAST OF SRI LANKA - The Daily Guardian
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HOW COAST GUARD CONDUCTED A HISTORIC OPERATION OFF THE COAST OF SRI LANKA

Indian Coast Guard spearheaded a perilous fire-fighting operation that lasted over 7 days, in dousing an intense fire onboard the 333-metre-long oil tanker off the Sri Lankan east coast, carrying about 3 lakh metric tonne of crude oil.

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) created yet another maritime history of a kind by responding and coordinating a major firefighting operation onboard Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) ‘MT New Diamond’ wherein the entire highly inflammable cargo ‘Kuwait Export Crude’ was protected despite raging fire and intermittent explosions. The ICG spearheaded a perilous fire-fighting operation that lasted over 7 days, in dousing an intense fire onboard the 333-metre-long oil tanker off the Sri Lankan east coast, carrying about 3 lakh metric tonne of crude oil (Category 1 inflammable liquid), thus averting a serious disaster in the region which otherwise would have threatened the bio-diversified marine environment off Sri Lanka, Maldives and southern India. Comparing with the recent oil-spill mishap of 1,000 tonne Bunker Oil from MV Wakashio witnessed off Mauritius in August 2020 that led to declaration of National Emergency by the island nation, the quantum of crude in this incident was 270-times more voluminous. It is left to imagination that how devastating an oil spill off this high magnitude would have been for the region.

MT New Diamond, a Panama flagged vessel with 23 crew, was on passage from Kuwait to India (Paradip Port), reported fire due to boiler explosion aboard on the morning of 3 September about 40NM (approximately 70 km) of Tirrukkovil (south-east off Sri Lankan coast).The distress message was picked up by Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC), Colombo and by MRCC Mumbai. The Sri Lankan government, post assessing the situation, requested immediate support of India through Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka.

Indian Coast Guard is the authority for National Maritime Search & Rescue (NMSAR), National Coordinating authority for oil spill response in Indian waters and Competent National Authority under the regional South Asian Co-operative Environment Program (SACEP) for responding and coordinating marine pollution response in South Asian Sea region. The SACEP Sri Lanka, sought assistance of ICG, as the threat of oil spill to the entire region was imminent to conduct rescue and fire fighting operation on the ill-fated tanker, including pollution response operation, India being a signatory to the regional association mechanism.

A multi-mission capable Offshore Patrol Vessel ICGS Shaurya, on preventive deployment off Tamil Nadu coast, immediately diverted and was the first ship to arrive at the “Golden Hour” on scene to commence fire fighting by afternoon on same day. The night of 3rd Sep witnessed one more blast onboard Motor Tanker and ICGS Shaurya continued her effort to keep the fire under control. Meanwhile, a joint effort by MRCC of ICG and Sri Lanka Navy had ensured rescue of 22 of the 23 crew by alerting nearest ships in vicinity. The timely and daring firefighting efforts by ICGS Shaurya was the game changer and ensured that the fire remain contained within the bridge and accommodation area. If not, the fire would have spread to the cargo hold carrying huge volume of crude, resulting in explosions and consequent catastrophic environmental disaster.

By 4 September morning, six ICG ships, including specialist Pollution Response Vessel, augmented initial response and two Dornier aircraft were pressed in action to operate from Sri Lankan soils for logistics & pollution response. ICG Ships utilised sophisticated special-fit External Fire Fighting (EFF) system to spray foam compound for smothering the oil fire. In addition to ICG ships, Sri Lankan tugs Ravana, Vishaba and ALP Winger, also joined on 4 September and commenced fire fighting.

While the collective fire-fighting was underway, the adrift distressed vessel was moving towards Sri Lanka coast due to the prevailing seasonal currents in area, posing an immediate threat of grounding and resultant oil spill once near depths of 20 metres. Indian Coast Guard boarding team, in a high risk operation braving the rough seas and adverse conditions, embarked the under fire unmanned tanker and successfully connected the tow to Sri Lankan Tug TTT-1 to pull it away from land and position favourably into the wind to prevent spread of fire to the forward section of the ship. This move was crucial turning point of the operation that ensured saving cargo of the oil tanker as also averting major oil spill in the region.

With intense and persistent firefighting attack for three days by ICG Ships along with Sri Lankan ships and tugs, coming within 50 metres of a potentially huge explosive seat, the fire got doused by 6 September morning. ICG ships, however, continued to monitor the situation, in case of re-eruption due to prevalent temperature and undertook surface-boundary cooling to reduce it around the cargo holds.

As estimation of a likelihood of reoccurrence, a huge explosion again occurred on the starboard diesel oil tank on 6 September afternoon and by midnight, huge flames reaching up to 60 metre height from the deck were seen at the rear part of the ship. All units scaled up from boundary cooling to firefighting and as a result of yet again sustained and close quarter efforts by 4 ICG Ships and 2 Sri Lankan and 3 salvor tugs, the fire was completely doused again by 8 September afternoon. Notwithstanding, continuous boundary cooling with sea water was maintained to reduce temperature of the ship’s structure. As a result of two major explosions of fuel oil tanks, the deck and hull on port and starboard side got ruptured. This led to escape of oil water emulsion from engine room to sea and formation of minor oil sheen.

On 9 September, ICG Dornier aircraft which was preemptively positioned at Sri Lankan air base (Mattala) was launched in pollution response configuration for spray of Oil Spill Dispersant (OSD) to neutralise the sheen. Simultaneously, ICG ships in area also sprayed OSD and churned the waters for kinetic action and to accelerate the disintegration of the oil sheen. Under no circumstances, the major cargo tanks were breached nor the Kuwait export crude escaped to sea. A major mile stone was achieved by preventing the oil spill during the entire operation. Had there been an oil spill of such high magnitude, the fisheries and livelihood of fishermen of the entire region would have been severely impacted.

The collective surface firefighting efforts was supplemented by aerial dropping of Dry Chemical Powder (DCP), a fire-fighting substance, by Sri Lankan Air Force. Further, Sri Lankan Naval authorities sought ICG support for five tonne DCP for firefighting which was sourced from M/s IOC, Chennai and airlifted to Trincomalee. The salvage team hired by the owner which arrived on 6Sep aligned with ICG plan and approach for the firefighting operation.

The salvage team boarded the vessel on 9 Sep 20 and assessed no hotspots, flames/smoke with no breach of cargo tanks. Naval architect in salvage team confirmed that the ship’s stability remained within the safe zone. Indian Coast Guard continued to closely monitor the situation even after the salvage team took over control of the ship. Post declaration by the salvor that the casualty vessel is safe as also upon receipt of information from the Sri Lankan authorities through HCI in Sri Lanka, the ICG units were withdrawn from the scene on 10 Sep.

The large scale, professional and proactive efforts of ICG have been appreciated at the international level by the government and the armed forces of Sri Lanka as also by former President of the Maldives. A major ecological disaster was averted in India’s backyard by joint efforts of Indian Coast Guard, Sri Lankan armed forces and tugs deployed by Sri Lankan naval authorities and DG (Shipping). The incident response also highlighted close co-operation and inter-operability with forces of our immediate neighbours in all together a new dimension, invoking the established MoU between the two nations.

This operation has brought to fore the lead role played by India and the capability of ICG to respond to an emerging situation to protect the maritime environment in living up to its motto of “Vayam Rakshamah” (We Protect).

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Defence

24TH INDIA-USA EXECUTIVE STEERING GROUP MEETING IN DELHI

Ashish Singh

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The 24th edition of the India-USA Executive Steering Group (ESG) meeting was held at New Delhi from 22 to 24 February. The meeting was attended by a 12-member delegation from the US Army in person and virtually by 40 officers from different locations from the US. Major General Daniel McDaniel, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Pacific (USARPAC) was the Head of delegation from the US side. Indian Army delegation comprised of 37 officers. 

The forum is an Army to Army engagement that meets every year alternately in India and the US to discuss Army to Army cooperation.

A number of contemporary issues of mutual interests where discussed with an aim to enhance the engagements in diverse fields. For the first time the meeting was held both in person and through virtual mode owing to restrictions of Covid-19.

Relevant issues of defence cooperation and common subjects of Interest where discussed between both sides during the meet.

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Defence

Amid India-Pak ceasefire, a look at cross-border firings & terrorist attacks

Ashish Singh

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Jammu and Kashmir is affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border for the last three decades.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan are reported from the International Border(IB)/ Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir only.

India has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. Immediate and effective retaliation is undertaken by the security forces in cases of ceasefire violations/ cross border firings. There has been a substantial decline in the terrorist attacks over the last three years, due to a slew of pre-emptive measures undertaken by the Army, paramilitary and the government.

The details of the incidents of ceasefire violations, terrorist attacks, civilians and security force personnel killed/injured in ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks along with the number of terrorists killed in counter attacks during each of the last three years in Jammu and Kashmir are as under:

 The last DG level meeting of BSF and Pakistan Rangers was held from 8-10 November, 2017 at New Delhi. During this meeting, the issue of cross border firing was discussed, in which it was agreed upon by both sides to ensure that no such firing takes place. In case of any firing, the other side must exercise maximum restrain and immediate contact through all available means of communication be established to avoid further escalation. Flag meetings are also held on ground, on need basis, between Commanders of different level.

No assessment is made to ascertain the losses to the exchequer due to such attacks. However, compensation is provided to the civilians, security force personnel, etc. for the losses due to such attacks.

The government has been consistently raising the issue of cross border terrorism and has placed high emphasis on international cooperation in combating the menace of terrorism including in bilateral, regional and international fora. Some of the steps taken by the Government to curb terrorist activities are:

Kinetic operations: actively identifying the terrorists and their tactical supporters, seeking them through operations like cordon and search giving proper response if they resort to violence while being arrested etc.

Preventive operations: actively identifying the strategic supporters of terrorism and initiating investigations to remove the camouflaging layers and exposing their mechanisms of aiding and abetting terrorism such as funding, recruiting etc.

Night patrolling has been intensified and nakas have been set up on all likely infiltration routes. The vehicles coming from borders areas are being thoroughly checked.

Coordination meetings are being regularly conducted and high-alertness is being maintained by all the forces deployed in the area.

Sharing of Intelligence inputs on real time basis among all Security forces operating in J&K. 

Further to expose Pakistan’s connection with various terrorist outfits in the international arena, the Government of India is also using the various evidence collected during investigations of terror attacks for inclusion in bilateral and multilateral discussions.

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Defence

MULTIPLE MILITARY DOMAIN ENGAGEMENTS BETWEEN INDIA AND BANGLADESH

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Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Indian Air Force (IAF) embarked on an official goodwill visit to Bangladesh earlier this week on an invitation from Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat, Chief of Air Staff, Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). Chief of Air Staff Bangladesh recently represented his country at the Chiefs’ of Air Staff Conclave 21 at Air Force Station Yelahanka where he led a delegation to Aero India 2021 earlier this month at Bengaluru.

During the course of the four-day visit, the CAS and delegation are scheduled to interact with senior dignitaries and visit key operational bases of BAF. They will discuss the progress made in areas of shared interests and explore avenues to further mutual military cooperation. The visit of the CAS to Bangladesh comes at a significant period for both Bangladesh and Indian Armed Forces as the two celebrate 50 years of the 1971 war. It will enhance the existing professional ties and bonds of friendship between the two Air Forces.

BANGLADESH NAVY SHIP VISITS WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HQ

Bangladesh Navy Ship (BNS) Prottoy was on a two day visit to Mumbai last week. The ship commanded by Captain Ahamed Amin Abdullah with a crew of 137 personnel docked at Mumbai Port Trust.

Due to Covid-19 imposed restrictions, routine courtesy call-ons, social get togethers, exchange visits and other sports fixtures between the visitors and host naval personnel were avoided. This visit of BNS Prottoy to Mumbai is significant in the backdrop that the two countries celebrated 50 years of Bangladesh independence recently. To commemorate the occasion, for the first time, a marching contingent and military band from Bangladesh participated in India’s Republic Day Parade. Since the formation of Bangladesh, both India and Bangladesh have come a long way in nurturing strategic and defence relationships and these bonds are gradually growing in mutual trust and confidence.

ARTISTS COME TOGETHER TO COMMEMORATE WIN

Continuing the commemorative events as part of “Swarnim Vijay Varsh” this year, an “Art Carnival” based on theme “1971: Retrospective Through an Artist Eye” was organised at Fort William, Kolkata, last week. The event was conceptualised as a live workshop wherein renowned artists from India and Bangladesh displayed their creativity on canvas.

Participation of renowned artists from Bangladesh and India added colour to the marquee event which showcased the contribution, valour and sacrifices of armed forces and common people from both sides including the valiant “Mukti Jodhas” towards birth of Bangladesh. The event also witnessed participation from the students of Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata who got an opportunity to work alongside veteran artists while young minds including the NCC cadets and school children were exposed to new vistas.

     The event organised in the lawns of “Vatika” near Vijay Smarak of Fort William was inaugurated by Army Commander, Eastern Command. The two day event which was open to all art enthusiasts witnessed a stream of visitors mesmerised by exceptional art work. During the closing ceremony, Chief Guest Isha Mohammad, former Principal of Government Art College, Kolkata, and President of Asiatic Society spoke about the role people of Bengal and armed forces leading to the war. He also recalled various incidents of the Liberation War 1971 and highlighted a moving instance when Sikh soldiers of Indian Army took off their turbans to cover the mutilated bodies of young children and women

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Defence

INTERVENTION IS NOW ALSO USED FOR COMMON GOOD: JAISHANKAR

Effectiveness, success and legitimacy key to intervention, says strategic affairs expert C. Raja Mohan.

Ashish Singh

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Dr C. Raja Mohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, delivered the 2021 edition of The K. Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture on the topic of ‘When to Intervene: Using Force Beyond Borders’ on Thursday. The lecture was organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) as a tribute to the memory of a distinguished scholar and one of India’s foremost strategic thinkers, K. Subrahmanyam, who also long served as the Institute’s Director in its formative years. Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs, and the son of K. Subrahmanyam, delivered the Vote of Thanks.

In his Welcome Address, Director General, MP-IDSA, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, highlighted the contributions of Subrahmanyam to the Indian strategic discourse and described him as a man who stood for robust national security structures and postures. Subrahmanyam was one of the first to articulate the notion of “guns and butter” as against “guns versus butter, observed Amb Chinoy. Subrahmanyam was an early advocate of defence reforms, the nuclear option, improved intelligence inputs, and the dexterous engagement of great powers. His advocacy of the nuclear deal with the US also stands out.

In his Lecture, Dr C. Raja Mohan also paid rich homage to Subrahmanyam, describing him as the principal voice that explained the world to India and vice-versa. One of his biggest contributions to the strategic discourse was to free the debate in India from ideological shackles, he observed.

Speaking about the complexities faced by India on the use of force beyond borders, and about carefully managing the unavoidable and dynamic interaction between the domestic political processes of India and other countries, Dr Raja Mohan said that effectiveness, success and legitimacy should all be considered in analysing interventions. India’s decision to use force beyond borders should be based on its judgment of the situation, as it cannot afford to either stand apart, or intervene in every domestic conflict in the neighbourhood, he added. 

Drawing a parallel between India’s traditional and current foreign policy stance, Dr. Raja Mohan said that the country now seems to have moved away from the ‘presumed centrality of non-intervention in foreign policy’ and out of the collective amnesia about the Indian role in the two World wars which the current government has brought to the fore.

Offering the Vote of Thanks, Dr S. Jaishankar recalled many personal episodes in his late father’s life and the impact that his father’s strategic thought had on an entire generation of scholars and practitioners including Dr Raja Mohan and himself.

He added that the use of force abroad may no longer be considered a completely defensive move. Intervention is now also used for the common good, such as humanitarian and disaster relief operations or the development of maritime domain awareness.

Dwelling further on his father, Jaishankar noted that Subrahmanyam was tempered by experience, learnt from the intersection of his thoughts with politics, and gradually evolved with the times. Over the years, his interest expanded beyond the use of narrow military force towards issues such as knowledge economy, supply chains, dependency, leveraging trade, etc. Subrahmanyam also had the opportunity to apply all his rich knowledge and experience during his chairmanship of the Kargil Review Committee and the National Security Advisory Board.

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Defence

ASSAM RIFLES FELICITATES COVID-19 WARRIORS

Ashish Singh

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The Covid warriors worked hand in hand in spreading the awareness and fighting the deadly pandemic. These warriors have worked selflessly to save the humanity. With nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, these warriors are reaching out to all sections of the society to spread the message about vaccination and its effects.

In its efforts to reach out to the society along with these warriors, 44 Assam Rifles under the aegis of 22 Sect Assam Rifles (AR)/ Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)-EAST in a unique way felicitated these Covid warriors at Tamenglong. Since 16 January Covid-19 vaccination drive has been launched in the state of Manipur. Its prerequisite for the doctors, nursing and other medical staff to be thoroughly aware of the procedures and peculiarities of this vaccination drive. On the sidelines of this function the District Health Society, Tamenglong organised a training session for the medical staff of 44 Assam Rifles in Tamenglong.

The soldiers, being front line workers, are required to be vaccinated timely so that they can discharge their duty well without any risk to their health as well as the without endangering the lives of local populace, especially children and the elders of the society. The interactive and practice session conducted by Dr Sunil Kamei, DIO Tamenglong and his team of four doctors enabled the para medical staff of the unit to conduct vaccination at the unit hospital as well as at the remote outposts.

The CMO and medical team of 44 Assam Rifles felt much more confident in handling and carrying out of vaccination drive for the unit in times to come. Speaking on this occasion the Commandant 44 Assam Rifles thanked Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong and his medical team for the enriching session and assured them to work hand in hand with them to battle the deadly pandemic till the time it is not fully eradicated from society. He also highlighted various awareness campaigns being undertaken by unit troops in various parts of the district. The troops through posters, banners, plays, interactive sessions, consultive meetings and medical camps are engaged in awareness against Covid-19.

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Navy appoints new FOMA & FOCWF

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Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar took over as the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF) from Rear Admiral Krishna Swaminathan, at a formal ceremony held onboard the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya on Wednesday.

Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, a specialist in Gunnery and Missile Warfare, was commissioned into the Indian Navy on 1 July 1988. In a career spanning 32 years, he has commanded five warships on both the Western and Eastern seaboard including the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

On promotion to the Flag Rank, he assumed charge as Assistant Controller of Carrier Projects & Assistant Controller of Warships Production & Acquisition overseeing all aspects related to construction and acquisition of warships for the Indian Navy both from Indian as well as foreign shipyards including the indigenous aircraft carrier.

Rear Admiral Atul Anand has assumed the office of Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area earlier this week. The formal handing/ taking over ceremony was held at INS Kunjali, where Rear Admiral Atul Anand was presented a guard of honour at a ceremonial parade. The Flag Officer Maharashtra Area, or FOMA, is responsible for administration, coastal security and other maritime operations of the Maharashtra Naval Area. On behalf of the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy, the FOMA liaises with the State Administration as well as the Army and the Air Force in the state of Maharashtra on a regular basis across a wide spectrum of issues.

Rear Admiral Atul Anand was commissioned on 01 Jan 1988, in the Executive Branch of the Indian Navy. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, the Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Bangladesh and the National Defence College, New Delhi. He has also attended the prestigious Advance Security Cooperation Course at the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii, USA. His educational qualifications include an M Phil, M Sc (Defence and Strategic Studies), Masters in Defence Studies and a B.Sc degree. A recipient of the Vishisht Seva Medal, the Admiral has held several key command appointments in his naval career including the command of Torpedo Recovery Vessel IN TRV A72, Missile Boat INS Chatak, Corvette INS Khukri and the Destroyer INS Mumbai.

He has also served as the Navigating Officer of IN Ships Sharda, Ranvijay and Jyoti. In addition, he was the Direction Officer of the Sea Harrier Squadron INAS 300 and Executive Officer of the destroyer INS Delhi. His important Staff appointments include Joint Director Staff Requirements, Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Director Naval Operations and Director Naval Intelligence (Ops). He has also served as the Principal Director Naval Operations and the Principal Director Strategy, Concepts and Transformation at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy). As a Flag Officer, he has served as Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) at IHQ MoD (N) and Deputy Commandant & Chief Instructor at the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla.

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