In a swift response to attempted hijacking of the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel by around five to six armed personnel, the Indian Navy diverted INS Chennai from her anti-piracy patrol
Mumbai: In a big success for the Indian Navy in international waters, its elite marine commandos on Friday rescued 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, from a bulk carrier in the North Arabian Sea and sanitised it in a swift operation.
“All 21 crew, including 15 Indians onboard the vessel, were safely evacuated from the citadel,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.
He added: “Sanitisation by MARCOs commandos has confirmed the absence of the hijackers. The attempt of hijacking by the pirates was probably abandoned with the forceful warning by Indian Navy’s maritime patrol aircraft of interception by naval warship.”
Madhwal said the INS Chennai is in the vicinity of the MV Lila Norfolk and is rendering support to restore the power generation and propulsion besides assisting her commence voyage to next port of call.
In a swift response to attempted hijacking of the Liberian-flagged merchant vessel by around five to six armed personnel, the navy diverted INS Chennai from her anti-piracy patrol. The warship intercepted the vessel around 3.15 pm, and it was kept under continuous surveillance using maritime patrol aircraft, Predator MQ9B drones and integral helos.
“The Indian Navy’s marine commandos present onboard the mission deployed warship boarded the merchant vessel and have carried out the sanitisation operation,” Madhwal said.
The navy was able to successfully establish communication with the merchant vessel, providing a crucial link to monitor the situation and safety of the crew on board. Sources had earlier told CNN-News18 that even when there is a hijack attempt, the ship moves towards its intended route and at a constant speed. The destination for this ship was Bahrain. The hijackers were onboard but the crew had entered the safehouse.
The vessel had sent a message on a United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) portal, indicating approximately five to six unknown armed personnel boarding it on the evening of January 4.
The navy’s P8I maritime patrol aircraft overflew the vessel in the early morning on Friday and established contact with it, ascertaining the safety of the crew. The aircraft continued to monitor movement while the INS Chennai closed in on the vessel to render aid.
The overall situation was closely monitored, in coordination with other agencies/multinational forces (MNF) in the area. “The Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring the safety of merchant shipping in the region along with international partners and friendly foreign countries,” it added.
The UKMTO is a British military organisation that tracks movements of various vessels in strategic waterways. The cargo vessel belonged to Lila Global and the company’s CEO Steve Kunzer said the crew of Lila Norfolk have been successfully rescued by the Indian Navy ship INS Chennai.
“The vessel and crew are all safe. We want to thank the agencies that assisted in their rescue, in particular the Indian Navy, Capt Rohit Bajpai, director IFC-IOR and the officials of DG shipping,” he said in a statement.
He added: “We also want to thank the professionalism of our crew who reacted safely and responsibly under the circumstances.”
The navy’s IFC IOR (Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region) keeps track of the shipping traffic as well as other critical developments in the region.
SERIES OF SUCH MARITIME INCIDENTS WITNESSED
Liberian-flagged vessel MV Chem Pluto, with 21 Indian crew members, was the target of a drone attack off India’s west coast on December 23. Besides, another commercial oil tanker on the way to India came under a suspected drone strike in the Southern Red Sea on the same day. The vessel had a team of 25 Indian crew. In another incident, Malta-flagged vessel MV Ruen was hijacked on December 14 by pirates.
The navy on Wednesday said it continues to monitor the maritime security situation in the North and Central Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. “Indian naval ships and aircraft remain mission-deployed for maintaining enhanced surveillance and undertaking maritime security operations,” it said.
It added: “In the last one week, Indian Naval Task Groups deployed in the area have investigated a large number of fishing vessels and boarded vessels of interest.”