Coast Guard to be largest water protection force by 2018 New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS) The Indian Coast Guard is all set to grow into one of the world's largest forces for protecting territorial waters by the end of 2018 with the government approving augmentation of its capabilities, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Tuesday. "By the end of 2018, the Indian Coast Guard will be one of the biggest in this sector in the world," Antony told reporters after addressing a conference of its commanders here. He said the Coast Guard was the country's youngest paramilitary force but also the fastest growing, with its responsibilities increasing to include coastal security, search and rescue, pollution response and anti-piracy operations. "After 26/11, the Coast Guard has become the nodal agency for ensuring coastal safety and security. But that is not an exclusive domain of the Coast Guard, other agencies such as the navy, the governments of the coastal states, marine police, the shipping ministry," the fisheries department and the ministries of home and petroleum and natural gas are also responsible, he said. "So it is team work, though...it seems like a navy and Coast Guard job," he said. Antony said since the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the government sanctioned an additional manpower of 4,360 to the force, which had a strength of about 8,000 personnel at that point of time. "Also within three years, the assets have increased by 50 percent. From 22 stations, the number will almost double, with another 20 stations being sanctioned, along with a regional headquarters at Gandhinagar in Gujarat," he said. A district headquarters has also come up in the Lakshadweep Islands. The total number of Coast Guard stations now stands at 31, he said. "Indian shipyards are building 156 ships, boats and other craft for the Coast Guard. Twelve more Dornier maritime patrol aircraft will join the force within two years," he added. In order to plug the gaps in coastal radar coverage, the government was speeding up the implementation of a radar chain along the over 7,500-km-long coastline, with 36 radars along the mainland's coast, six radars in Lakshadweep Islands and another four radars in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Antony said. "An important project to tighten our coastal security is the establishment of a chain of 46 static sensors atop the lighthouses along our coastline. Once the coastal security network system is in place, it will surely boost our real time maritime domain awareness," he said. The first phase of the radar chain project will be completed by 2012. The second phase would begin soon after. Mangalorean.Com- Serving Mangaloreans Around The World!