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Drop in narcotics trade, piracy and robbery in Indian Ocean: Indian Navy

The Indian Navy reports a drop in illegal activities in the Indian Ocean Region (IANS)

Sumit Kumar Singh

A total of 215 maritime incidents like contraband smuggling, piracy, armed robbery, irregular human migration and illegal unregulated fishing were reported in the Indian Ocean Region in December 2020, the Indian Navy said.

The Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region under the Indian Navy monitors maritime incidents and it works closely with national and regional agencies as well as like-minded organisations and countries to generate comprehensive maritime domain awareness.

Additionally, the Centre also monitors the maritime traffic in the Indian Ocean Region. The centre has prepared a report on maritime activities and incidents in the ocean. As per the data analysed, at any given instant, an average of 11,000-12,000 distinct vessels have been observed in the Indian Ocean, though in the month of December 2020, the number increased to around 13,700.

The maritime security situation in the wider Indian Ocean Region has been monitored under various maritime security threat categories. The report stated that there was a 27 per cent decrease in the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents monitored in December, 2020 as compared to November 2020.

"A total of 19 incidents were reported in the Gulf of Guinea (same as in November 2020), the joint highest for a single month in 2020," the report stated. This was followed by two suspicious approaches and an attack in Gulf of Aden and one each sea robbery off Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The month witnessed an 11 per cent decrease in contraband smuggling incidents as compared to November 2020. Major drugs seized included methamphetamine, cannabis and heroin.

The seizure of large quantities of methamphetamine during recent months remains a concern for the region.

There was a 30 per cent increase from November 2020 in seized quantities of methamphetamine, including a single seizure of 2,218 kg by Malaysian authorities, reported to be the largest seizure in 13 years. The Centre continued to monitor large seizures of turmeric as contraband — banned import commodity — off Sri Lanka.

Further, the report stated that the incidents of illegal unregulated fishing saw a 35 per cent decrease in December 2020 as compared to November 2020. This was the lowest number of incidents reported in 2020 and may be attributed to a drop in reported incidents of local illegal unregulated fishing off Bahrain and Sri Lanka.

The Centre recorded a 25 per cent decrease in incidents of poaching as compared to November 2020. Poaching was reported off Bangladesh, Djibouti, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar and Sri Lanka.

A seasonal ban has been imposed by Odisha on fishing in the vicinity of the Gahirmatha Sanctuary from November 2020 to May 2021 to protect the endangered Olive Ridley turtles during the breeding season.

There was a 22 increase in irregular human migration incidents in December 2020 as compared to the previous month. About 60 per cent of the reported incidents were recorded across the Mediterranean, 26 per cent off Mayotte and the remaining off Malaysia and Oman.

The highest reported single month crossings in the Mediterranean and continued higher crossings off Mayotte highlight the economic hardships possibly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. "Proactive enforcement and reporting by Turkish authorities could be another factor," the report stated.

The Centre monitored a minor increase in other maritime incidents from November 2020. An increase was observed in the incidents that involved capsizing and sinking of vessels and may be attributed to heavy weather during the North East monsoon in Southeast Asia and the tropical storm Burevi.