The Coast Guard Ship (CGS) Barracuda, sent for a maiden short refit from February 2021 to October 2021 in India, was handed over to Mauritius, yesterday morning, at the Quay B of Port Louis Harbour.

The Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Alan Ganoo, the High Commissioner of India to Mauritius, Mrs K. Nandini Singla, as well as other eminent personalities were present at the ceremony.

In his address, Mr Ganoo recalled that the CGS Barracuda was commissioned on 12 March 2015 and has been at the forefront of many challenging operations, providing vital support to our Outer Islands. It has carried out prolonged surveillance of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.3 million square kilometres, and participated in various National and International Fleet Reviews, he pointed out.

The Minister underlined that in order to continue to undertake such missions in the future, it was essential that the ship be refitted and this refit was carried out free of charge by the Government of India. The refit, Mr Ganoo emphasised, required much substantial work and was completed in particularly difficult conditions due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 and interrupted with periods of lockdown.

Speaking of the India-Mauritius bilateral relationships, Mr Ganoo indicated that India and Mauritius will soon celebrate 75 years of diplomatic representation. On this score, Minister Ganoo highlighted that today’s event concerns another very important aspect of the cooperation extended to Mauritius by India for the security of our territory, particularly our maritime borders and oceanic resources.

Maritime Safety and Security, he underscored, is an important area of the bilateral relations between Mauritius and India, as India contributes to maintaining the sea routes of the Indian Ocean safe. The Indian Navy’s presence enhances the security of merchant and fishing ships and acts as a deterrent against pirates, illegal fishing and marine pollution, Minister Ganoo stressed.

In addition, the Minister pointed out that India has been at the side of our National Coast Guard since its beginnings in 1987 with one ship, the Amar, and two Mandovi Class patrol vessels and, over time, Mauritius availed itself of other vessels including the Guardian, the Barracuda, and the Observer as well as fast interceptor boats and Chetak helicopters.

Moreover, he recalled that in September 2021 Mauritius obtained, free of charge, a Passenger Variant Dornier on lease until the Government procures an aircraft through the Line of Credit generously extended to Mauritius by the Government of India.

Apart from safeguarding our maritime zones, Mr Ganoo underscored that the NCG plays a critical role in supporting our outer islands of Agalega, Rodrigues, St. Brandon and Tromelin. During the COVID 19 pandemic, the only link for these islands for the conveyance of food and other necessities was through the NCG, which continued to function as the lifeline for them, he added.

For her part, Mrs Singla highlighted that this event is yet another landmark moment in the very special India-Mauritius relationship and expressed satisfaction that the maiden short refit of the CGS Barracuda, despite COVID-19 challenges, was successful within a short span of eight months.

Moreover, she recalled that the refit was undertaken by M/S Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE) in Kolkata as they were the ones that had designed CGS Barracuda and had also done the guaranteed refit of the ship in 2016.

As regards India-Mauritius relations, she underlined that the Government of Mauritius had requested the assistance of India for the refit of the CGS as the Government was facing challenges in completing the works in Mauritius. The Government of India took up the case in priority and explored ways to complete the short refit at the earliest as the Government of India knew how essential CGS Barracuda is for Mauritius.

On this score, she outlined the role of the CGS Barracuda, which is the flagship of the Mauritius Police Force. Some include: the essential role of the ship in Outer islands support; in undertaking EEZ surveillance; humanitarian assistance, as well as representing Mauritius in international events.

Furthermore, she indicated that she had personally overseen the refit of the CGS Barracuda in India, and kept in touch with the GRSE since time was of the essence. She underlined that the commitment of India to stand by the Republic of Mauritius in good times and in bad times is still strongly ongoing as India will be celebrating its 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Mauritius soon, and as part of the ongoing two years ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations.