Times of India – Intel sharing on Alang operations needed, say officials

(Written by Ankur Jain)

18 July 2012 - AHMEDABAD: Several intelligence reports over the last decade have mentioned nefarious activities at the graveyard of ships at Alang in Bhavnagar. The latest one speaks of Pakistani nationals involved with ‘D-company’ based in London and UAE holding a major stake in the country’s shipbreaking industry and investing crores in Alang.

However, a faint effort has been made by central or state agencies to dig out and verify claims made by the country’s premier intelligences institutions. A top-level Central Intelligence Bureau meeting in Ahmedabad discussed the security threat at Alang on Tuesday and emphasized the need for agencies to share information on inbound ships and the people involved.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from IB, Coast Guard, Air Force, DRI, Customs and the Army. The need for an ad-hoc nodal agency to share crucial intelligence was also discussed.

“There have been several inter-ministerial and security agency meetings on Alang. However this has not translated into action on the ground. In the absence of political will at centre and state, law-enforcement agencies can do little at Alang,” said convener of Toxic Watch Alliance, Gopal Krishna, who in May this year wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about security and environmental concerns at Alang.

Since 2006, various agencies have been briefing the inter-ministerial committee meeting for the shipbreaking industry about usage of fake documents to get permissions for dismantling ships. In fact, a standing monitoring committee on shipbreaking yards at Alang in 2011 noted that customs officials and Gujarat Maritime Board are unable to verify whether documents provided to them, when ships land at Alang, are falsified or not. Intelligence agencies briefed an inter-ministerial committee in Delhi in February 2012 about the entry of Dawood’s aides into the industry and the potential security implications.

Last year, activists revealed how ‘Platinum II’, a ship from the US was brought to Alang using fake registry documents of the Republic of Kiribati.

“In 2005, a 51 year-old asbestos-laden ship ‘Riky’ sailed to Alang under the flag of Roxa, a non-existent country. The ship has been dismantled but we are fighting a case in the Supreme Court against the company and government bodies who let the ship to enter India,” said Krishna.

In the last two decades, over 5,500 ships have been dismantled at Alang and over 100 ship-breaking companies are active in Alang. Alang has seen several excise and customs default cases and a few cases of people caught with satellite phones brought along with vessels.

“There is no visible presence of D-company in the region, but hawala and angadia networks are ubiquitous. Reports on illegal activities have been submitted at the top level, but agencies on the ground have never been asked to investigate such matters,” said a retired IPS official who has worked in the region.