Drone strike hits ship off India’s coast, ICGS Vikram deployed to investigate

Dubai: A drone strike damaged a merchant ship off the coast of India on Saturday but caused no casualties, two maritime agencies said, with one reporting the vessel was linked to Israel.

The attack caused a fire on board the merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, or UKMTO.

Ambrey, a maritime security firm, said the “Liberia-flagged chemical/products tanker… was Israel-affiliated” and had been on its way from Saudi Arabia to India.

Both agencies said the attack occurred 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval, India.

UKMTO said the “authorities were investigating”, and noted the fire had been extinguished. Ambrey said the Indian navy was responding.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike which came amid a flurry of drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Huthi rebels on a vital shipping lane in the Red Sea.

Iran has also been accused of carrying out attacks near its waters.

Last month, an Israeli-owned cargo ship was hit in a suspected drone attack by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Indian Ocean, according to a US official.

he Malta-flagged vessel managed by an Israeli-affiliated company was reportedly damaged when the unmanned aerial vehicle exploded close to it, according to Ambrey.

The attacks on shipping since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7 have prompted major firms to reroute their cargo vessels around the southern tip of Africa, despite the higher fuel costs of much longer voyages.

The Huthi rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels involving more than 35 different countries, according to the Pentagon.

ICGS Vikram moving towards vessel: Defence officials:  Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram is moving towards a merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea 217 nautical miles off Porbandar cost after it reported a fire incident suspected to be caused by a drone attack.

The vessel had crude oil and was going towards Mangalore from a port in Saudi Arabia. As per inputs received, the fire has been extinguished but it has affected its functioning. The ICGS Vikram was deployed on the patrol of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone when it was directed towards the merchant ship in distress. All crew are safe which includes around 20 Indians. The ICGS Vikram has alerted all ships in the area to assist it.