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Indian navy intercepts ship, rescues crew after Arabian Sea hijack attempt

Indian navy intercepts ship, rescues crew after Arabian Sea hijack attempt
5 Jan 2024

The navy says its commandos boarded the warship to render assistance after the vessel issued a hijacking distress call.

India’s navy said its commandos have rescued all crew members from a Liberian-flagged merchant vessel after its attempted hijack in the Arabian Sea, and that it had not found any pirates on board.

The subcontinent’s navy said on Friday that 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, were rescued from the MV Lila Norfolk after they intercepted the vessel.

The navy said its forces were carrying out “sanitisation” operations on the ship, less than a day after they received a hijacking distress call from its location off Somalia’s coast in the North Arabian Sea.

The ship had sent a message on the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations portal, saying five to six unknown armed personnel had boarded on Thursday evening, an Indian navy statement said.

The vessel was destined for Khalifa bin Salman in Bahrain, according to British maritime security firm Ambrey. It was not immediately clear what it was carrying.

“The attempt of hijacking by the pirates was probably abandoned with the forceful warning by the Indian Navy, marine patrol aircraft, of interception by an Indian Naval warship,” the navy added.

The warship INS Chennai was diverted and deployed to assist the vessel, the navy said earlier in the day, adding that a naval aircraft overflew the hijacked vessel on Friday and had established contact with it.

The navy said it “remains committed to ensuring [the] safety of merchant shipping in the region along with international partners and friendly foreign countries”.

The Indian navy has increased its surveillance of the Arabian Sea after a recent spate of attacks in the region.

Data from the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region shows at least three hijackings in December. The previous such incident was reported in 2017.

“The sudden revival in ship hijacking and attacks can only be attributed to the pirates’ willingness to take advantage of the fact that the focus of anti-piracy maritime forces has largely shifted from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea,” Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi told Reuters.

Earlier this week, the navy said it had investigated a large number of fishing vessels and boarded vessels of interest in the north and central Arabian Sea.

“India plays the role of a net security provider in the entire Indian Ocean region. We will ensure that maritime trade in this region rises from the sea to the heights of the sky,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said last month of the increased surveillance in the region.