The Indian Coast Guard will now be commanded by a new Director-General, K Natarajan.
He will take over from the current DG, Rajendra Singh on June 30. Director-General Rajendra Singh took charge in 2016 and was the Inspector-General (West Region) during the 26/11 terror attacks.
Currently, Natarajan is the Additional Director General of the Western Sea Board of the Indian Coast Guard. This branch of the ICG looks after the western coast spanning from Gujarat to Kerala.
One thing to note, however, is the soon-to-be DG has commanded the Chandbibi, a Jija Bai-class inshore patrol vessel. It is one of the oldest of its kind in use in the Indian Coast Guard. Built as part of a joint project between Sumidagawa Shipyard Ltd. (Japan) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (India), the 44-meter long vessels were built between 1983 and 1985.
Before being appointed to the role of Director General, K Natarajan commanded the following vessels:
- Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel Sangram
- Offshore Patrol Vessel Veera
- Fast Patrol Vessel Kanaklata Barua
- Inshore Patrol Vessel Chandbibi
With the new Director General at the helm, the Indian Coast Guard will get another shot in the arm. Over the years, the Coast Guard has received several upgrades, ships and aircraft included. From 74 vessels in 2008, the ICG fleet numbered 134 in 2018. The number of aircraft, too, rose to 58 aircraft in 2018, from 44 in 2018. This number is set to rise with the appointment of an officer who has commanded almost every type of operational vessel the Coast Guard operates; K Natarajan.
The Indian Coast Guard, also the world’s fourth-largest of its kind, also announced that it will open a new recruitment center in Uttarakhand. The installation will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Triveni Singh Rawat, who will lay the foundation stone on June 28, 2019. Located in Kuanwala (Hararwala), near Dehradun, India’s newest Coast Guard recruitment center will, along with similar already operational installations in Noida, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata, will take about eighteen months to become operational. This recruitment center will cater to candidates from Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, and of course, Uttarakhand. This follows the Indian Coast Guard’s positive outlook in 2018 when it announced several projects to bolster India’s coastal security.
In 2018, the Additional Director General (Operations and Coastal Security) of the Coast Guard, V. Sri Ramachandra Murthy laid out a broad plan for beefing up India’s coastal security. This included the acquisition of more than 60 surface platforms and 15 vessels of all types currently under construction, along with the inclusion of five Fast Patrol Vessels based at Vizag, Kakinada, and Vishakapatnam by 2021. The fleet expansion target of 200 ships and 100 aircraft is set to be achieved by 2023.
In the same year, the Coast Guard had announced the construction of a jetty in partnership with the Indian Navy, six new radar installations along the Andhra Pradesh coast and a plan to sign MOUs with more than seven nations to co-operate in the fields of maritime safety and environmental protection. They have also handed over decommissioned patrol vessels to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard in 2006, 2008 and 2017, as part of an effort to strengthen maritime relations with the island nation.
The Indian Coast Guard, in spite of being the smallest force in the defense structure, has to patrol and protect a 7516-km coastline, almost thrice the area under the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction. As the new Director-General of the Indian Coast Guard, K Natarajan will have to primarily deal with the threat of ISIS affiliates entering India via Sri Lanka.
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