ICG makes record haul of narcotics from Panama vessel off Gujarat coast

Port Blair
31 Jul 2017

The Indian Coast Guard seized 1,500 kg of drugs (heroin and chitta) from a merchant ship off the Gujarat shoreline on Saturday, reportedly the biggest single haul of narcotics in India. The contraband is estimated to be around Rs 4,500 crore in the international market.
The vessel was spotted around 380km off Dwarka through surveillance mounted by the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a government intelligence-gathering agency. “The NTRO shared the intelligence about the suspect vessel on July 27 and the Coast Guard was notified. Intelligence suggested the crew was negotiating the mode of payment for the contraband and its intended destination,” said a release from the Coast Guard, A & N Region.
The Indian Coast Guard Operations Centres at Mumbai, Gandhinagar and Porbandar were activated and a datum was established. Later the Coast Guard ships in area were alerted and Dornier aircraft sorties for maritime air reconnaissance were undertaken in the probable area. This was the moment where the electronic surveillance operated by Indian Coast Guard along Gujarat Coast was brought to high alert. The radar stations based at Dwarka, Navadra, Porbandar, Mangrol, Diu , Gopnath and Hazira were sweeping their respective zones for any suspected vessel. the air surveillance narrowed down at two in-bound cargo vessels emanating from the reference location with identity issues. The MSV Al-Amir and Noor-e-Shabbir on passage to Jam Salaya were intercepted by coast Guard Ships and detained on July 28 for investigation at Okha Port.
While the surveillance was underway, the Coast Guard Dornier sanitizing the sea-area off gulf of Khambat picked up another vessel, not recognised on automatic identification system and was marked suspicious. ICGS Samudra Pavak was diverted from the scene of action to the advanced position of suspect vessel named Hennry which was to call at Bhavnagar port, for breaking at Alang. The VTMS and GMB authorities at Khambat were consulted and on confirmation that no such vessel was expected, Indian Coast Guard ships shadowed her movement. ICGS Ankit was positioned off Diu to augment support while CG Dorniers from Daman and Porbandar  re-ascertained her movements. The role of CG helicopter was also crucial in carrying out air support mission sorties with ships. The vessel Hennry was observed transmitting her identity as Prince-II. During earlier voyages, she has been identified as Al-Sadiq from a marine traffic website. Her present identity without holding any documents to support and in the absence of any formal permission to call her next port Bhavnagar, made her a defaulter and an intruder. ICGS Samudra Pavak intercepted and boarded her in the wee hours last Saturday.
Further investigation at sea revealed that the OSV was registered in Panama with eight crew onboard and nil cargo. The intelligence agencies had information about a vessel of similar nature carrying 1.5 tonnes of heroin/chitta worth Rs.350 crore. The master when questioned, informed that this vessel  is on passage for demolition, hence no documents are being carried.
The vessel was escorted by the CG ship to enter Porbandar on Sunday for interrogations at inner anchorage by Indian Coast Guard in the presence of other stakeholders viz. intelligence agencies, police, customs, enforcement, narcotics and Indian Navy. during the initial inspection by Coast Guard, approx 1500 kg of narcotics worth Rs 3500 crore have been found onboard. This is the biggest catch of narcotics in the present times, the released added.