Senior BSNL officials from Chennai, including Deputy General Manager I Elangovan and Assistant General Manager Narayanan, explained the functionalities of the device.
Speaking to DTNext on Sunday, S Lasington Fernando, Secretary, Coastal Mechanised Sail Vessel Owners Association, said, “It is a much-needed device to save our lives during any distress at sea. Although there is no second thoughts about it, its affordability is a big issue.”
He said the sat phone should be provided at subsidised cost like how the State government provided VHF communication system with subsidy to fishing boats. A satellite phone costs around Rs 1.05 lakh.
The BSNL officials explained that the fishermen could be reached within Indian territorial waters and not beyond. There is a roaming facility but it requires a concurrence from the Central government.
“The sail vessel industry with a fleet of 5,000 across the country faces hardship over soaring fuel price, paucity of cargo, competition between sail vessels and container ships. Considering the situation, the BSNL authorities should come forward to provide satellite phones at a subsidised cost,” Fernando said.
Though it is a lifesaving equipment, its limited accessibility remains a cause for concern, said A Subash Fernando, a sail vessel operator.
Communication through the phone could be reached only up to 100 nautical miles. “Now, through cell phone, men at sea could communicate up to a distance of 30 nautical miles and with the aid of VHF communication system equipped in vessels, communication network could be extended up to 20 to 30 nautical miles from one vessel to another,” he said. “The purpose of satellite phone should be to communicate with those in deep sea,” he said.
Referring to the tariff, he said it costs Rs 60 per minute and Rs 260 per minute for roaming and hence is unaffordable.