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Indian Navy foils pirate attacks

An Indian naval warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden successfully foiled attempts by Somalian pirates to hijack two ships in a space of less than one hour, reports Rahul Singh. See graph. Map: incident sitePodcast: Hijack attempt

india Updated: Nov 12, 2008 01:33 IST
Hindustan Times

An Indian warship on Tuesday foiled attempts by Somalian pirates to hijack two ships, including an Indian merchant vessel, in a space of less than one hour, in the Gulf of Aden — the world’s most dangerous waters for commercial shipping.

This was the first such action by the Indian Navy after it began patrolling the Gulf of Aden on October 23 to protect Indian ships in the wake of a surge in hijacking incidents.

It comes nine years after the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy jointly intercepted and rescued a hijacked Japanese-owned tanker, MV Alondra Rainbow, in the Arabian Sea.

At 9.58 am, stealth frigate INS Tabar received a distress call from MV NCC Tihama, a Saudi merchant vessel sailing towards the Suez Canal, that pirates are trying to hijack it. The ship had five Indians among its crew. An armed helicopter with marine commandos onboard was immediately sent off.

The commandos — modeled after US Navy SEALs and Royal Marines — fired at the pirates trying to board the Saudi ship from small speedboats, forcing them to retreat.

After the successful operation, as the helicopter was returning, it got another call from its warship. There was another job on hand, and this time it was an Indian vessel in distress. This was at 10.30 am.

Jag Arnav, a 38,265-tonne bulk carrier, around 20 nautical miles from the Saudi ship and sailing in opposite direction, was in trouble. The commandos engage the pirates and force them to flee.

The manner in which the navy responded to the two distress calls demonstrated a newfound offensive posture against piracy in international waters.

Indicating that the navy would go the whole hog to counter this threat, navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said, “Indian naval ships operating in piracy-infected areas are always in a state of high alert. Their mandate is to ensure that the safety of our sovereign assets is maintained.”

The navy has sought complete authorisation from the Ministry of Defence to use force against piracy, arguing that such carte blanche would allow warships to respond quickly.

Somalian pirates hijacked the Stolt Valor, a Hong Kong-registered tanker, off the coast of Yemen on September 15 when it was sailing from Suez to Mumbai. The families of the 18 Indians on board the hijacked ship, still waiting for them to be rescued.

Over 60 incidents of ship hijacking have been reported in the Gulf of Aden this year.

First Published: Nov 11, 2008 14:27 IST