The Coast Guard Unit attached to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will be replaced by the Coast Guard Department which will operate under the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, after Parliament approves enabling legislation this week.
The new Bill provides for all personnel, property and other assets of the Unit to be transferred to the Defence Ministry.
The Coast Guard Department will be given wide ranging powers which will include the detection and seizure of contraband and weapons, prevention of trafficking of narcotic drugs and the exit and entry of illegal immigrants and illegal fishing in the territorial waters of Sri Lanka.
The Department will be empowered to stop, board, inspect and search any vessel or aircraft as well as arrest any person whom it has reason to believe has committed an offence in violation of the laws of the country. Its personnel will also be allowed to carry prescribed arms necessary for the performance of their duties but neither the Department nor its personnel will be trained or organised as a military establishment or function as such.
Some of the other functions of the Coast Guard Department will be to assist in the preservation and protection of the maritime and marine environment, the prevention and control of marine pollution and other disasters at sea.