Unregulated private armed ships roaming the coastal areas of the country could lead to situations similar to 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi warned on Tuesday.
The Navy chief was referring to the recent arrest of an armed private US vessel `Seaman Guard Ohio' off Tuticorin, with 25 armed guards.
He was speaking to a press conference ahead of Navy Day that falls on 4 December.
"Floating armoury is a matter of very serious concern. This is entirely unregulated... This has very serious security implications for us including the infiltration of terrorists", he said.
"If there are unregulated arms and ammunition on a vessel, the existence of weapons is not known as to when and where guards are transferring them and this could lead to such a situation on anybody's soil".
The Navy Chief said merchant ships with unverified armed guards, many of which often enter India's territorial waters, pose ''serious security implications'' for the country as there could even be infiltration of terrorists through these vessels.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had warned against posting armed guards in merchant vessels to fend off pirates.
Adm Joshi said the movement of such guards is a major cause of concern for the coastal security of the country in the aftermath of the 26/11 attack and the Indian Navy has sought necessary regulatory curbs by IMO on them.
''These vessels cannot just ply so close to our coasts with unverified armed men on board. In some cases even combatants have been found on them. There is no one to keep track of these ships, the arms on them or the guards so they need to be brought under an international regulatory mechanism.''
There are close to 140 private security companies operating in north Indian Ocean, which hire out privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP), Admiral Joshi pointed out.
There are scores of ships operating as floating armories, outside any coastal state jurisdiction, he said, adding that the issue has ''serious security implications'' for a country like India which has a long 7,500 km coastline.
Admiral Joshi said while merchant ships may justify the use of armed personnel to fend off piracy attempts by Somalian pirates, the issue of posting armed guards needs to be at least regulated.