Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sea Patrolling Intensified, North Korean Vessel May Land Arms

Less than 48 hours after Naval intelligence alerted Maharashtra’s Customs officials to look out for a North Korean ship allegedly carrying arms and ammunition and heading towards India’s western coast, a fresh message was sent this evening asking Customs to call off the operation. Sources said there was no explanation from the Navy but they suspected that Naval intelligence must have tracked down the ship. Or, the ship, identified as M V Shangdok, had altered its course. Commander Abhay Lambhate, spokesman for the Defence Ministry in Mumbai refused to comment on ‘‘this sensitive issue’’. A top official at the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi said: ‘‘Whatever it is, it is a matter of national security. Let those involved do their jobs. These things cannot be discussed.’’ What added to the mystery was a press release sent by Commissioner of Customs, Ahmedabad, Ruchira Pant this evening: ‘‘It has been reported in certain sections of the Press that (the) Navy has alerted Customs authorities regarding a ship carrying arms towards Maharashtra or Gujarat coast. The Customs department in Gujarat is in constant touch with the Navy and the Coast Guard and all Customs (preventive) formations along the coast have been put on high alert. All necessary steps have also been taken to step up preventive surveillance in the coastal areas of Gujarat.’’ Earlier in the day, Customs officials in Mumbai — whose weekly offs had been cancelled following the alert — said that the ship was likely to enter the country’s territorial waters within the next 72 hours if it stayed on its ‘‘pre-charted course’’. This week-ends alert had mentioned that M V Shangdok might dock at one of the minor ports on the western coast. This evaluation by the intelligence officials was primarily based on the fact that according to international maritime procedures, it’s not mandatory for any shipping line to appoint its agents at the port of call.

blog counter