Published: Tuesday, 26 January 2016

An incident this past year in India involving the unauthorised use of a satellite telephone while a vessel was in territorial waters has brought to light the need for captains and officers to be more aware of their use of the device while in Indian waters.

Satellite Phones Banned In Indian Waters 1

(Photo: Port Blair/Asia Pacific Superyachts Andaman Islands)

R. Rathnam of Asia Pacific Superyachts reminds superyachts and yachts planning trips to the Andamans, “If any boat comes to the Andamans with these SAT phones they will be kept under customs seal until the boat leaves the Indian waters.”

This is in accordance with DGS Order No. 02 of 2012 - the unauthorised use of Thuraya, Iridium and other such satellite phones are banned in Indian territorial waters. The legislation for this is in Section 6 of the Indian Wireless Act and Section 20 of the Indian Telegraph Act.

Port agents servicing vessels arriving at Port Blair and bound for Indian ports routinely make vessel masters aware of this regulation. Despite this forewarning, an incident occurred when crew were allowed to use the phone to make a number of personal calls. Shore monitoring of transmissions by the local authorities identified the vessel and local police/customs initiated an investigation. 

Satellite Phones Banned In Indian Waters

(Inmarsat satellite phone)

The maximum fine for breaching the regulation is INR 1,000 (approximately US$15) and/or imprisonment for three years for each crewmember involved.

A breach of this legislation is often seen as a state security matter resulting in a complicated and time-consuming investigation. Severe delays and detention of the vessel is likely, as well as the crew potentially facing criminal proceedings.

Rathnam cautioned those in charge of entering the area to instruct all to closely follow the instructions of DGS Order No. 2. It is also recommended such phones be kept under their custody for as long as the vessel remains in Indian territorial waters.