Lighthouse tourism ready

Soon, lighthouses in Chennai, Mamallapuram, Rameswaram and Muttam in Kanyakumari would be developed into tourist destinations. “We are exploring the possibility of turning select lighthouses into tourist destinations for which the project report is ready,” said Union shipping minister G. K. Vasan, after inaugurating the national Automatic Identification System (AIS) in the city on Friday.

He said though the lighthouses are located at remote locations, the scenic looks in the environs are breathtaking. “So, we have decided to promote tourism at 13 lighthouses across the country including four from Tamil Nadu in the first phase,” he said, adding that a lighthouse museum would also be set up at the lighthouse on Marina.

The shipping minister further said the lighthouse directorate has been asked to provide state-of-art aids for navigation facilities along the Indian coastline and also in the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands. Calling the AIS as the most important component of coastal surveillance, Mr Vasan said it would ensure effective search and coordination besides broadcasting warning to merchant ships.

The system, established at a cost of Rs132.15 crore by the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL), is the largest network in the world covering the entire East and West coast of India. Seventy-four base AIS stations have been installed in lighthouses with six regional control and two coastal control centres, besides one national data centre. Navy, Coast Guard and others too have monitoring centres.

While the AIS will help to track vessels up to a distance of about 50 km, Mr Vasan said the DGLL is also in the process of establishing a Navtex chain, which will facilitate in broadcasting weather and safety related information to mariners during natural disturbances.

New system helped track sinking ship

Even before the Automatic Identification System (AIS) could be launched, it has helped the shipping community with its surveillance during the trial period.

“On July1, a ship MV Sea Angel sank near the coast of Kochi and the system reacted within six minutes and broadcast a virtual mark to help other ships avoid that area. In normal practice, it takes 15 days to put a floating buoy for navigators to understand,” said Magnus Persson, vice president, operations, Saab Transponder Tech AB, a Swedish company that has installed all the base stations for the AIS in India along with Elcome Marine Services (EMS).

“While the system aids navigation, it also provides surveillance, gives warnings and helps in search and rescue operations,” said Nikhil Sharma, vice president (technology), EMS.
While the AIS is set to work only when the ship responds, Mr Sharma said the company is also in the process of integrating radars with the system.

“For the last two years the Indian Coast Guard has been installing radars at lighthouses. Once the radars are integrated with our systems, we will be able to monitor even the ships that don’t respond. It will help to alert bigger ships about the presence of smaller vessels nearby,” he added.

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