Indian Navy rescues another pirated ship

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The Indian Navy has liberated yet another vessel from pirates off the coast of Somalia in the fifth such operation this year.

An Indian Navy spokesperson said reports were received about a potential piracy incident onboard the Iranian fishing vessel Al-Kambar in the evening of 28 March. The vessel was sailing some 90 nautical miles southwest of the island of Socotra near Yemen.

Two Indian Navy ships, deployed in the Arabian Sea for maritime security operations, were diverted to intercept the hijacked fishing vessel, which was reported to have been boarded by nine armed pirates.

The Saryu class patrol vessel INS Sumedha intercepted the Al-Kambar during the early hours of 29 March and was joined subsequently by the guided missile frigate INS Trishul.

“After more than 12 hours of intense coercive tactical measures as per the SOPs [standard operating procedures], the pirates on board the hijacked fishing vessel were forced to surrender. The crew, comprising 23 Pakistani nationals, have been safely rescued,” the Indian Navy said.

Indian Naval specialist teams subsequently ‘sanitised’ the vessel and ensured it was seaworthy enough to escort to safe waters and resume normal fishing activities.

The nine pirates that were apprehended are being taken to India for further legal action “in accordance with the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act of 2022.”

The Indian Navy said it remains committed to ensuring maritime security in the region and the safety of seafarers, irrespective of their nationalities.

Its last success was liberating the ship MV Ruen from Somali pirates, rescuing the 17 crew on board and apprehending 35 pirates.

The Maltese-flagged MV Ruen was hijacked on 14 December 2023 while 700 nautical miles east of Bosaso. It was rescued on 17 March after a 40-hour coordinated operation that involved the Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata, Sukanya class patrol vessel INS Subhadra, unmanned aerial vehicles, a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, and a C-17 Globemaster III transport that dropped paratroopers onto the hijacked vessel.

The MV Ruen may have been used as the base for the takeover of a Bangladesh-flagged cargo ship MV Abdullah off the coast of Somalia last month, the European Union Naval Force said. The vessel, en route from Maputo to the United Arab Emirates with a cargo of coal, was seized by at least a dozen pirates on 12 March and subsequently sailed towards Somalia where it continues to be held.

The hijacking of the MV Ruen was the first such successful even by Somali pirates since 2017, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Hijackings off Somalia have raised concerns about a resurgence of Indian Ocean piracy by opportunistic pirates taking advantage of naval forces focussing on defeating attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. At least 17 incidents of hijacking, attempted hijacking and suspicious approaches had been recorded by the Indian Navy since 1 December, Indian officials previously said.

The Indian Navy has a sizeable presence in the Red Sea region, with a dozen warships deployed to provide security against pirates as Western powers focus on attacks by Yemen’s Houthis.

In January, the Indian Navy foiled two hijackings by Somali pirates within days. On 29 January, the fishing vessel Al Naeemi and her crew (19 Pakistani nationals) were rescued by the Indians from 11 Somali pirates after the Iranian-flagged fishing vessel was boarded and her crew taken hostage. The day before, the INS Sumitra liberated the hijacked Iranian fishing vessel Iman, releasing 17 crew being held hostage.

On 5 January, the Indian Navy rescued another vessel from pirates – 21 crew were evacuated from the MV Lila Norfolk in the North Arabian Sea a day after it was boarded by half a dozen armed men off Somalia’s coast.