Navy Chief: Navy to increase sea marshals for foreign ships

... rules out re-emerging of LTTE


VA Sinniah stressing a point at Wednesday’s media briefing (pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)

The navy on Wednesday announced plans to secure a greater role in providing anti-piracy security cover for international merchant shipping.

New navy commander Vice Admiral Travis Sinniah said Sri Lanka as a conflict-free nation in South Asia was well placed to protect international shipping between the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to Straits of Malacca.

He said they were seeking to increase commercial operations providing armed on-board protection to commercial vessels vulnerable to hijackings, especially by Somali pirates.

"We are friends with everyone and we have no enemies," Sinniah told reporters in Colombo a day after assuming office. "We are well placed to provide security services to merchant vessels."

He said the sea marshal operations initiated by the navy had been given over to a private company by the previous government, but it has since been taken back by the new administration.

Sri Lanka’s navy had increased its training "10-fold" after the end of the Tamil separatist war in May 2009 and was gearing itself as a true blue water navy after ending a 37-year war with Tamil separatists who operated their own sea-going wing.

Sinniah, who is a member of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority, said there was no prospect of separatist Tamil Tigers re-emerging  and the country’s military was adjusting to the new situation of peace.

"We are now in a transition. Going form war to peace time," Sinniah said adding that they were exploiting the commercial opportunities while increasing their patrolling and fighting capabilities across the board.

He said they will also adopt new tactics and strengthen patrols of the narrow strip of sea dividing Sri Lanka and India in a bid to prevent poaching in the rich fishing grounds of the island.

Fishermen from the two countries often stray into each others’ waters, creating diplomatic difficulties.

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