Satellite-based Vehicle Monitoring System (VMS)

An ambitious effort to install the satellite-based Vehicle Monitoring System (VMS) for small fishing vessels (less than 20 meters) across the country’s coastline is still to be rolled out as the Quad grouping looks to track and address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Indo-Pacific.

Despite pilot studies being conducted, the project, conceived in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, remains stuck primarily due to two reasons.

Fishermen don’t want to get tagged as they do not want any of their illegal activities recorded and they are skeptical that others will get to know where there is a good catch. The second is that fishing is a State subject and there are local politics involved.

There is no legislation to force fishermen to install the transponders and efforts by the Ministry of Fisheries to table the Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, 2021 which covers this has repeatedly been delayed due to the opposition from the States and fishermen.

The Quad grouping, comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S., announced at the Tokyo summit last month an ambitious Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) initiative to track “dark shipping” and to build a “faster, wider, and more accurate maritime picture of near-real-time activities in partners’ waters” integrating three critical regions in the Indo-Pacific.

There are two main regulations globally on IUU fishing — the Cape Town Agreement (CTA) and the Agreement on Ports State Measures (PSMA) — and India is, so far, not a signatory to both agreements.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is for bigger ships, which was made compulsory for all vessels above 20 meters after 26/11 by the National Committee on Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security (NCSMCS).