• The Navy will formally inaugurate the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) later this week.
• Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
• “The IFC-IOR is established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region,” a defence official said on condition of anonymity.
• The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which 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.
• “All countries that have already signed white shipping information exchange agreements with us, about 21 of them, are IFC partners,” another official said.
• “With the launch of the IFC, they now have the option of positioning liaison officers at the IFC for which we need to build up requisite infrastructure too. So we now start with their ‘virtual presence’,” the official said.
• Against this backdrop, information exchange at the Centre would be initially undertaken by virtual means, telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and video conferencing. Subsequently, to enable better interconnection, quicker analysis of information and timely inputs, the IFC-IOR would host liaison officers from foreign countries.
• “Additionally, the Centre would undertake conduct of exercises and training capsules in maritime information collection and sharing,” the first official stated.
• Establishment of the IFR-IRO would ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.
• In a related development, India has signed the ascension agreement to the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN) which facilitates information exchange on the movement of commercial traffic on the high seas.
• The multilateral construct comprises of 30 countries and is steered by Italy.
• Commodore K.M. Ramakrishnan signed the agreement on behalf of the Indian Navy at the Italian Naval Headquarters in Rome last Monday.
AIS systems on ships
• The information is available primarily through the Automatic Identification System (AIS) fitted on merchant ships with more than 300 gross registered tonnage as mandated by the International Maritime Organisation.
• The AIS information comprises name, MMSI number, position, course, speed, last port visited, destination and so on.
• This information can be picked up through various AIS sensors including coastal AIS chains and satellite-based receivers.
Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests
Prelims level: IFC-IOR
Mains level: Enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region