'Israel-Affiliated' Vessel With 21 Indians Comes Under Suspected Drone Attack Off Porbandar Coast; First Visuals Surface

'Israel-Affiliated' Vessel With 21 Indians Comes Under Suspected Drone Attack Off Porbandar Coast; First Visuals Surface

The ICGS Vikram was deployed on the patrol of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone when it was directed towards the merchant ship in distress.

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Saturday, December 23, 2023, 10:11 PM IST
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A Liberian flag merchant ship identified as "MV Chem Pluto" with 21 Indian crew on board was the target of a suspected drone attack off the Western Coast of Gujarat early Saturday morning.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hit the merchant vessel with a cargo of chemicals 200 nautical miles off the coast of Veraval in Gujarat while en route to Manglore port from Saudi Arabia.

The UAV caused an explosion on MV Chem Pluto leading to fire onboard and disrupted power supply of the vessel. It is not clear from where the drone was launched and by whom. The Centre has taken serious note of the development and has ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Mumbai received report of the drone attack from the ship's agent.

Indian Navy & Coast Guard take counter measures

The Indian Coast Gaurd rushed CGS Vikram in the vicinity on Exclusive Economic Zone patrol to assist the vessel. Another merchant vessel MV Marlin was also diverted to assist MV Chem Pluto by MRCC.

The Indian Navy dispatched an P-8I maritime patrol aircraft for aerial survey of the vessel which was on fire and later contained by the fire-fighting crew of the merchant vessel.

"Safety of crew and ship was ascertained. A warship has also been despatched to provide any assistance as required," a spokesperson for the Indian Navy said.

The west region Coast Guard, which had rushed CGS Vikram for assistance, said there was no structural damage to the vessel or injuries to the crew on sourboard. “The crew managed to extinguish the fire and the engineers were working to restore electricity,” the Coast Guard spokesperson stated.

According to sources, MV Chem Pluto is allegedly affiliated to Israel. Most ship owners register their vessels in Liberia or Panama for tax avoidance.

Past instances of hijacking

Saturday's drone attack, follows the hijacking of Malta-flagged vessel "MV Ruen" with 18 crew in the gulf of Aden last week by six armed Houti pirates.

Intel reports had alerted about possible drone attacks on Indian assets in retaliation after the Indian Naval warship deployed on anti piracy mission in the Arabian Sea responding to May Day distress call of "MV Ruen".

Naval Protection Force

The United States had on Monday announced alliance of new naval protection force – Operation Prosperity Guardian - comprising navy personnel from various allied nations to counter the threat posed by Yemen's Houthi militants in the Red Sea. The naval alliance consisting of alliance consists of Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

Earlier top shipping companies—MSC, A.P. Moller-Maersk, CMA CGM, and Hapag Lloyd—had suspended their operations in the Red Sea after Yemen's Houthi militants intensified attacks on commercial ships.

Yemen rebel militants attacks on merchant vessels in the strategic Bab el-Mandeb strait that serves as the gateway to the Red Sea situated between the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.

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