Satellite Phones Prohibited in Indian Waters

Following an incident in 2015 in India involving the unauthorised use of a satellite telephone while a vessel was in territorial waters, captains and officers need to be aware of the ban and implications of not complying to the regulations imposed.

A representative of Asia Pacific Superyachts warns superyachts and yachts planning trips to the Andamans, “If any boat comes to 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 which are banned in Indian territorial waters.”

The legislation for this is Section 6 of Indian Wireless Act and Section 20 of Indian Telegraph Act. Despite Port Agents warning vessels arriving at Port Blair and bound for Indian ports and making vessel Masters aware of this regulation, (according to Steamship Mutual news) an incident occurred when crew were allowed to use the phone to make a number of personal calls.

The maximum fine for breaching the regulation is INR 1,000 and/or imprisonment for three years for each crew member involved. Breaches are seen as a state security matter resulting in a complicated and time consuming investigation. Severe delays/detention of the vessel is likely, over and above the crew potentially facing criminal proceedings.

Those in charge of entering visiting vessels should instruct all their crew to closely follow the instructions of DGS Order No. 2. It’s also recommended that satellite phones should be kept under their custody for as long as the vessel remains in Indian territorial waters.