Coast Guard seeks ISRO help with distress signals

Monday, 24 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: The Indian Coast Guard has sought the space agency's help in the transmission of distress signals from small fishing vessels out at sea.

The Eastern Command of the Coast Guard has asked the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to design a simple, low-cost device that fishermen could fit on their vessels and send signals from.

According to a federal directive, all trawlers more than 20 metres long have to report to the Coast Guard. The rule came into effect on February 1.

Commodore R.S. Vasan, the Coast Guard eastern fleet commander, made the request in a letter to ISRO because his force is every day faced with the problem of tracking lost fishing vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

"The device can have just four buttons and signals can be codified so that it is easier for the fishermen to operate," Vasan suggested.

Indian fishermen, especially from Tamil Nadu, often stray into foreign waters and are attacked by the navies of neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and taken into custody.

Last year, one vessel strayed as far as Myanmar, where the fishermen were arrested.

Small boats also come under attack from trawlers and pirate vessels in the Malaccan waters and often get lost in the high seas.

"It is a tough task finding small fishing boats lost in the seas, especially during inclement weather," said B.S. Kothari, deputy commander at the Maritime Rescue Centre.

Last year the Coast Guard rescued 72 fishermen.

ISRO officials said they were working on a small wireless device from which signals could be picked up by mobile satellite transponders. The device would cost less than imported communication devices. Global positioning system-connected devices cost about 50,000.

ISRO is testing a mobile satellite transponder that gives signals on the S band and is received centrally in New Delhi and transmitted to Coast Guard stations throughout the country.

The ISRO wireless device has to be first market tested before it can be made commercially available to small fishermen living off the 7,000 km of Indian coastline.
Source: IANS
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