The Indian Navy nabbed 61 pirates believed to be Somali nationals and rescued 13 fishermen about 600 nautical miles west of the Indian coast in an operation that lasted for more than two days.
The pirates were carrying close range 90 small arms or rifles and heavier weapons like Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG).
This has been the largest group of pirates apprehended in recent times.
Earlier, the Navy along with the Coast Guard, arrested 43 Somalian pirates off the coast of the Lakshwadeep Islands on two different occasions in January and February this year.
The apprehended pirates would be handed over to the Coast Guard, who in turn would hand them over to the Yellow Gate police station in Mumbai.
The drama on the high seas started on March 11, when the Navy’s dornier aircraft was airborne after a merchant vessel MV Vancouver Bridge informed that they were under a pirate attack.
During the rescue sortie, the aircraft spotted Vega 5, a fishing vessel, which the pirates had hijacked on December 28, 2010 and were using as the mother vessel. The pirates on seeing the Naval aircraft aborted their attempt to attack MV Vancouver Bridge, and the mother vessel tried to escape from the area.
“The information was relayed to the command center after which INS Khukri, a missile corvette, and INS Kalpeni, a fast attack craft were diverted to intercept and investigate Vega 5,” said PVS Satish, the Indian Navy's public relations officer.
Both, INS Khukri and INS Kalpeni were already under deployment to undertake anti-piracy operations in the region. At night on March 12, INS Kalpeni closed in on Vega 5 and asked them to stop.
But taking advantage of the darkness, Vega 5 launched two skiffs with armed pirates who fired at the Naval vessel. The naval ship responded with limited firing that saw the two skiffs sink, and started a fire on board the mother vessel Vega 5.
Naval authorities said the fire broke out after the additional fuel drums that the mother vessel was carrying caught fire.
Action from the naval ship saw forced the pirates to abandon their skiffs and mother vessel, and jump into the sea. The pirates were then nabbed with the help of navy personnel from INS Kalpeni and INS Khukri.
Following its hijack, Vega 5, a Mozambique flagged fishing vessel, had been a risk to international shipping for the last four months and had carried out several attacks.
Naval ships and aircraft are presently in the area searching for any other fishermen or pirates.
Pirate incidents reported for Somalia in 2011
Total Incidents: 61
Total Hostages: 243
Total Killed: 7
Current vessels held by Somali pirates: Vessels: 33
Recent attack that Somali pirates carried out in Gulf of Aden or Arabian Sea
March 10: Two skiffs with 4-5 pirates in each skiff chased a tug underway with intend to board. The tug increased speed and enforced anti piracy measures. When the skiffs were about 3 cables (about 1.5 kilometres) from the tug the onboard security team fired warning shots, resulting in the skiff aborting the attempt and moving towards a suspected green and white hulled mother vessel in the vicinity.
March 5: Pirates in a mother vessel and a skiff chased a tanker underway. Master raised alarm, sent distress message and took evasive manoeuvres. The pirates opened fire, came alongside and boarded the tanker. All crew retreated into the citadel from where they were able to control the vessel. Further details awaited.
March 4: Pirates in three skiffs doing 20 knots chased a bulk carrier underway. Master raised alarm, increased speed, altered course and contacted navies for assistance. A NATO warship responded and the pirates aborted the attempted attack and moved towards the Oman coast. A suspected mother vessel was in the vicinity.
When at Sea, what to do when pirates attack?
-Proper and efficient lookouts to get early warning of threat.
-Increasing speed and manoeuvring the vessels
-Communicate and broadcast the attack to the appropriate organisations which will be able to effectively alert authorities and law enforcement for assistance. When in Indian water contact the Indian Navy or Indian Coast Guards helpline.
-Use of razor wires around the accessible parts of the ship
-Lock down all access points into the accommodation, bridge and engine room
-Brief the crew members: Inform them to be vigilant and inform the duty officer of anything suspicious
-Conduct a drill prior to entering a high risk area. This will ensure emergency communication procedures are tested and contact information is readily available
-Ensure all crew are fully aware of alarm procedures and muster stations
-Keeping in mind multi national crews - all internal communications should be carried out in the working language of the ship
-Master of the ship should adjust ship routines prior to entering high risk area. This should be done to ensure that the crew are well rested and are on watch at all times.
-Keep important telephone numbers ready at hand especially those of CSO, Flag State and PRC
-Commence evasive manoeuvres and use bow wave and stern wash to prevent the small boats approaching close to the ship
-Head into the sea and swell: this makes it more difficult for boats to come alongside
-In the event of pirates boarding and gaining control of the bridge it is essential to try to keep calm and follow the instructions of the pirates in order to avoid physical confrontation. The master should at all times endeavour to keep the vessel in command to prevent collision or grounding.