After successfully combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden and indicating its growing footprint in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy has foiled a piracy bid off the island nation of the Seychelles and arrested nine pirates, an official said.
"Our ship INS Nirdeshak, along with a French warship and Spanish frigate, intercepted and arrested nine pirates while they were trying to hijack Italian cruise liner MS Melody. This incident highlights the growing footprint of the Indian Navy in a wider area," a senior naval official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The operation took place Sunday when MS Melody came under attack off northern Seychelles.
"A Chetak helicopter was launched after coordinating with the French Navy, which also had some reconnaissance aircraft in the area. The pirates will be handed over to the Seychelles and the ship will return to its patrolling area," the official added.
Pirates armed with automatic rifles had attacked the cruise ship with 991 passengers and 536 crew on board Saturday evening, but MS Melody, owned by Italy's MSC Crociere SA, was able to fend them off, with its security personnel returning fire. The vessel simultaneously sent out an SOS, leading to the international response.
INS Nirdeshak, essentially a hydrographic survey vessel, is equipped with a Chetak helicopter and interceptor boats for undertaking anti-piracy missions. It also has a medium 40mm Bofors gun on board. It has made several visits to the Seychelles in the past to carry out hydrographic surveys.
While it continues its operations in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, the Indian Navy is now also patrolling the waters in the exclusive economic zone off the Seychelles after the island nation asked for assistance.
This was in the wake of reports that Somali pirates, after being chased away by the international forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden, had shifted their focus and were operating less than 200 nautical miles north of Mahe, the largest island in the Seychelles chain.
The Indian Navy, meanwhile, has also completed the refit of the Coast Guard ship Topaz that had been gifted to the Seychelles in 2005.
"The refit of the Topaz is over and the ship will be handed over to the Seychelles on Thursday," the official added.