The Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) set up last year has started functioning as an information sharing hub of maritime data and “cuing incident responses” to maritime security situations through a collaborative approach, Navy sources said.
At the just concluded Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC), National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had offered countries in the IOR use of the facility to track movement of vessels on the high seas.
“The centre is actively interacting with the maritime community and has already built linkages with 18 countries and 15 multinational/maritime security centres,” one official said.
The major centres with which regular exchange of maritime security information is being undertaken include Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Centre (VRMTC), Maritime Security Centre - Horn of Africa(MSCHOA), Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP), Information Fusion Centre-Singapore (IFC-SG), and International Maritime Bureau - Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC).
“The centre is administering a website to undertake collation and dissemination of information on a daily basis and also hosts the Monthly Maritime Security Update (MMSU) highlighting analysis on incidents, warnings and advisories in IOR,” the official added.
The IFC-IOR was inaugurated in December 2018 within the premises of the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.The IMAC is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
Several Indian Ocean littoral states have joined the coastal radar chain network. These include Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Seychelles. Bangladesh is set to join the network and talks are on with Thailand as well.
All countries which have signed white shipping information exchange agreements with India are IFC partners. The centre will host liaison officers from partner countries. Infrastructure to house them is currently being set up, officials said. Several countries had evinced interest in posting liaison officers. “We have already designated an officer to be at the IFC. Once it is formalised the officer will function from the embassy before moving to the centre,” a diplomatic source of an IOR country said.
Presently, the exchange of information is being undertaken by virtual means, using telephone calls, faxes, emails and video conferencing over Internet.
Addressing the GMC hosted last week by the Navy and attended by 10 Indian Ocean littoral states, Mr. Doval stated that India aspires to be a “major contributor” to maritime safety in the region with active cooperation of all and “we would like our neighbours to draw upon it, consider it as their own facility” he stated and added that rather than “duplicating it” we can augment it further by their cooperation. His comments on avoiding duplication are important in the context of reports that Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are considering setting up similar fusion centres.