National Automatic Identification System launched

Chennai: As part of efforts to enhance maritime security, the Centre today launched the Rs 132 crore National Automatic Identification System (NAIS), which will ensure effective search and co-ordination besides broadcasting warnings to merchant ships.

Describing the project as the "most important component of coastal surveillance," by the union Government, Shipping Minister G K Vasan said it would go a long way in enhancing safe navigation along the 7,500-km long Indian coastline.

Launching the AIS here, he said 95 per cent of cargo is transported through seas and, therefore, the present effort by Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL).

"The NAIS is a set up connecting 74 AIS sensors installed on lighthouses along the entire coastline. The system will be able to track vessels to a distance of 50 km from the coast," he said.

This is intended to help different users like DG Shipping, various Ports, Navy and Coast Guard in tracking, surveillance, search and rescue and management of aid to navigation, he said.

AIS has provisions to track small fishing vessels with customised transponders which will be helpful during search and rescue operations, he said.

With two lakh fishing vessels in operation, his Ministry had approved a pilot project for DGLL to provide transponders to 1000 such vessels off the Gujarat and Maharashtra coasts at an estimated cost of Rs six crore, he said.

The salient features of AIS, "single largest networked system for real time tracking of merchant ships," include integration with world ships` database, web access to users, capability to integrate radar tracks and full compliance to international regulations.

Seventy-four base AIS stations have been installed in lighthouses with six regional control and two coastal Control centres, besides one national data centre. There are monitoring stations at Navy, Coast Guard and other centres.

The DGLL was also in the process of establishing a Navtex chain will facilitate in broadcasting weather and safety related information to mariners during "natural disturbances," he said.