- Amid escalating tensions in the Gulf region, the Indian Navy is considering deploying small teams on board large crude carriers passing through the region.
Timeline: Escalating tensions in the Gulf
- Before 2015, the UN, US and EU suspected that Iran was using its nuclear energy programme to develop a nuclear bomb.
- They imposed sanctions on Iran with the demand to curb its sensitive nuclear activities. In return to the sanctions, Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, which is an important artery for oil trade in the Middle East region.
- After negotiations, Iran reached a nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with six countries – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany in 2015.
- However, in May 2018, the US President backed off from the deal and reinstated economic sanctions on Iran
- The move was directed at stifling Iran’s trade and economy as it severely hit the oil supply from Iran.
- The sanctions triggered an economic meltdown in Iran and led to soaring inflation and thus Iran responded by backfooting on its commitments under the deal.
- In July 2018, Iran hinted that it could disrupt oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation for U.S sanctions.
- Escalating tensions
- Recently in May 2019, USA withdrew waivers from sanctions granted to Japan, China, India and Turkey, further escalating the tensions in the region.
- As a result, Iran has announced that it will back out from its commitments under the nuclear deal by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.
- Also in the same month, four commercial ships – 2 of Saudi Arabia, 1 of UAE and 1 of Norway – were targeted with a “sabotage attack” near Strait of Hormuz.
- As a consequence, the US deployed warships and some troops to the region to counter threats from Iran to its forces and maritime traffic. The Iranian forces also shot down Global hawk, US military Spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
- These events increased the tensions in the Middle East, and threatened all traffic in the Strait of Hormuz through which most of world’s oil and gas tankers travel.
- The Gulf region is crucial for India’s energy security, as most of India’s energy needs are sourced from the region and any potential disruption would have an adverse impact on the economy.
- With tensions escalating in the region, the Indian Navy is considering deploying small teams on board large crude carriers passing through the region.
- The proposal is currently under discussion among various stakeholders, including the Navy, Directorate General of Shipping and the Indian Ship Owners’ Association.
Measures being taken to ensure India’s energy security:
1. Navy escorting the India-flagged vessels:
- Recently, after a series of attacks on ships transiting through the Persian Gulf, the Indian Navy launched Operation Sankalp to re-assure Indian-flagged vessels operating/transiting through Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.
- Under operation Sankalp, Navy deployed two ships in the region, destroyer INS Chennai and offshore patrol vessel INS Sunayna.
2. Keeping a close watch on the region:
- Aerial surveillance in the area is also being conducted by Navy aircraft.
- The Information Fusion Centre (Indian Ocean Region) in Gurugram is keeping a close watch on the movement of ships in the Gulf region.
- The Director-General of Shipping issued advisories in mid June to all Indian-flagged vessels operating in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian/Arabian Gulf region to undertake “appropriate protection measures”.
4. Navy teams on large crude carriers:
- The new proposal under consideration is to have small Navy teams comprising an officer and personnel on all large crude carriers like VLCCs and ULCCs to advise on protection measures.
- Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCC) and Ultra Large Crude Carriers (ULCC) are the largest operating cargo vessels in the world.
- These “Supertankers”, capable of carrying huge amount of crude oil in a single trip, are primarily used for long-haul crude transportation from the Persian Gulf.
- The teams will be deployed on transiting crude carriers depending on the necessity.
Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR):
- IFC-IOR was launched in December, 2018 at Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC), Gurugram.
- Maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching pose myriad challenges to maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean region.
- However, the scale, scope and the multi-national nature of maritime activities, make it difficult for countries to address these challenges individually.
- Hence, collaborative efforts between maritime nations in the IOR is essential.
- Towards this, the IFC-IOR aims to engage with partner nations and multi-national maritime constructs to develop comprehensive maritime domain awareness and share information on vessels of interest.
- IFC-IOR would work towards capability building in the region, coordination of incident response and disaster relief, and in time, also share submarine safety information.
Directorate General of Shipping
- The Directorate General of Shipping, headquartered at Bombay, is an attached office of the Ministry of Shipping, Govt. of India.
- It deals with all executive matters relating to merchant shipping, including the implementation of shipping policy and legislation.
- The subject of Shipping was, in the beginning, dealt with by the Ministry of Commerce, till 1949 and subsequently, in 1951, it was shifted to the Ministry of Transport and Shipping.
- The objectives of the Directorate General of Shipping include:
- Matters affecting Merchant Shipping & navigation and administration of the Merchant Shipping Law ;
- Measures to ensure safety of life and ships at sea;
- Development of Indian Shipping;
- International Conventions relating to Maritime matters;
- Provision of facilities for training of Officers and ratings for Merchant Navy;