3 minute readNavy thwarts pirate attack on two cargo ships

New Delhi: Attacks by Somali pirates on two cargo ships in the Gulf of Aden were thwarted by an Indian Navy warship last week, navy officers said here Monday.

INS Sukanya, an Offshore Patrol Vessel on anti-piracy duty off the Somali coast, had deployed its Marine Commandos and a helicopter to ward off the sea brigands, who were approaching the two merchant ships, in separate incidents on September 20 and 24.

The pirates were on high-speed skiffs and made threatening approaches towards the merchant ships that were being escorted by INS Sukanya in the Gulf of Aden.

Though it was dark, the Sukanya crew detected the approaching skiffs and following laid-down operating procedure, warned the speed boats on radio to stay clear.

“When the boats did not heed the warnings, Sukanya launched her own high-speed boat with marine commandos to investigate the skiffs. After some time, an armed helicopter was also airborne to protect the vessel in the escort group,” the officers said.

The skiffs were stopped and boarded by the marine commandos, who carried out a search and confirmed the presence of pirates on board.

The commandos also recovered arms and ammunition in the skiffs, apart from implements to mount an attack on unarmed cargo vessels such as modern communication equipment, ropes, ladders and grapnels.

“The skiffs were rendered ineffective for carrying out any further piracy action. Due to the bold and alert actions of Sukanya crew, two merchant vessels — MV Fairchem Bronco and MV Conqueror — were saved from being hijacked,” the officers said.

The Indian Navy has been continuously deploying warships in the Gulf of Aden in anti-piracy role since late October 2008 and has so far prevented hijacking of 39 cargo vessels, apart from escorting 1,700 merchant ships of different nationalities to safe ports.

Meanwhile, India rejected suggestions that its navy should go on a hot pursuit of Somali pirates, who are threatening global trade on sea lanes of communication in the Indian Ocean region.

“I do not agree with the suggestion that India should follow a policy of hot pursuit against Somalian pirates,” Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony told Indian MPs, who are members of a parliamentary consultative committee related to his ministry.

“That’s not our policy,” he told the meeting.

Antony said 20 navies of the world were operating in the Gulf of Aden against pirates and the Indian Navy was cooperating with those navies.

However, he emphasised that India supported a joint anti-piracy operation of all world navies under the United Nations flag. “A joint effort under the aegis of the United Nations may yield better results,” he said.

India has continuously deployed a warship in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008 and has since thwarted 39 attacks on cargo ships, apart from escorting 1,700 merchant ships of different nationalities since.

It had also apprehended about 120 pirates in the last one year and they are lodged in Indian prisons at present.

Earlier, Antony described the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 as “a watershed moment” for the country’s defense establishment.

“We have come a long way since then,” he said.

The defense minister said he had asked the navy to prepare a comprehensive action plan for the security of India’s island territories as well.

Pointing out that India’s neighbourhood was “sensitive and dangerous” and created “a complex” security environment, Antony said the country’s defence policy was based on own threat perception.

“Added to this is international trade and energy requirements which necessitate that we have to ensure secure sea lanes of communication,” he added.

Giving details of the massive efforts made by the government to beef up coastal security, the defense minister said the capital expenditure for the Indian navy and coast guard had been doubled in the past three years following the 26/11 tragedy.

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