The Indian Navy on Monday captured an Iranian cargo ship off the Mumbai coast carrying arms, ammunition and contraband, officials said.
The vessel, MV Nafis-1, that set sail from Iran to an undisclosed location in July was reportedly hijacked and was being used for smuggling contraband.
Two AK-47 rifles and a pistol concealed in an empty fuel tank of the ship were also recovered from the vessel. The nine people on board — five Yemenis, two Tanzanians, one Kenyan and one Somalian — have been apprehended and will be handed over to the police for questioning.
During the preliminary interrogation the crew told the marine commandos that the ship had been drifting for nearly 20 days following mechanical problems.
“However, there are discrepancies in their accounts and they will be thoroughly questioned once they reach land,” said a Navy officer on condition of anonymity.
Usually, merchant vessels alert the closest maritime rescue co-ordination centre in case of mechanical problems.
“But despite rough weather, the persons onboard did not alert any of the rescue centres, which raises suspicion,” the officer said. MV Nafis-1 was spotted by a maritime reconnaissance aircraft on Friday, around 250 nautical miles of the Mumbai coast, and was kept under continuous surveillance.
Subsequently, INS Mysore, a guided missile destroyer, was sent to intercept the hijacked vessel along with two helicopters and 24 marine commandos, officials said.
The vessel is being towed to the closest port at Porbandar in Gujarat, where the crew will be handed over to the police.
“It is impossible to conduct a full-fledged investigation in the sea as it is extremely choppy, with waves rising as high as 12 to 15 feet,” said captain Manohar Nambiar, chief defence spokesperson.