Kochi: For search operations in connection with the suspected case of human trafficking, the Indian Coast Guard and Navy were alerted 24-hours after the incident which is said to have happened on Saturday.
As the incident, according to police, happened in the early hours of Saturday, the CG, which usually receives the first alert for searching sea, got the alert only by Sunday morning.
"As it was an e-mail alert in the early hours of Sunday, it has been received and read by only in the morning. Nobody called up and informed," a source with the defence ministry said.
"They could have reached anywhere in any direction by that time, and it depends on the speed of the boat. The next thing we can do is searching an entire suspected area, but there are lots of fishing vessels in those areas and watching and investigating on each one of them is nearly an impossible task."
The officials said that the late alert was a significant disadvantage in this case as options to trace the suspects, if they were on the sail, reduced drastically in those 24-hours.
"If the alert were early, the area to search would have reduced, and the jurisdiction would have been more, thereby creating more options to trace them," an official source said.
The Indian law and legal principles are applicable within 12 nautical miles from the coast. From 12 nm to 200 nm, the Navy and Coast Guard cannot be tried by all regulations because they are international waters, but they are within the jurisdiction of Indian Forces for preventing any misuse of natural resources or for any scientific research.
"In 24-hours, if the average speed of the boat were 10 knots, they would have travelled 240 nautical miles. If they are far from 200 nm, we cannot do anything unless they threaten or fire on us," said Commander Sridhar Warrier, PRO (Defence), Kochi.
As Australian coast is at a distance of 4000 - 6000 nautical miles from Kerala coast, they need 400 - 600 hours to reach there, and that means 17 - 25 days if the pace is 10 knots. The speed may reduce due to wind and waves and the number of days might increase.
They also said that Navy and Coast Guard would not check outgoing fishing vessels without any reason. The technology, physical presence, and human intelligence of coastal security are exclusively for incoming foreign elements.
"There are lots of outgoings, and we do not check anybody unless there is a suspicion, because it is a common activity of the fishermen to go fishing and come back," Mr Warrier said.
Meanwhile, a top official with the Coast Guard said they had taken every possible step for the search....