Merchant vessel with nine Indians come under drone attack in Gulf of Aden

New Delhi: The Gulf of Aden witnesses another drone attack on a merchant vessel (MV). A Marshall Island-flagged cargo vessel with 22 crew members, including nine Indians, came under a drone strike in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday night and the Indian Navy swiftly responded to the attack, officials said.

Indian Navy on Thursday said, “INS Visakhapatnam, mission deployed in Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations, swiftly responded to a distress call by Marshall Island flagged MV Genco Picardy following a drone attack at 2311 hrs on 17 Jan 24.”

The Indian Navy’s “mission deployed” guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam responded to the attack within an hour of receiving a distress call from the vessel Genco Picardy, they said.

MV Genco Picardy with 22 crew (09 Indian) reported nil casualties and fire under control.

The merchant vessel was attacked 60 nautical miles South of Port Aden.

Indian Naval EOD specialists from INS Visakhapatnam boarded the vessel in the early hours of 18 Jan 24 to inspect the damaged area. EOD specialists, after a thorough inspection, have rendered the area safe for further transit. The vessel is proceeding to the next port of call.

The officials said the Indian Navy’s EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists boarded the vessel early Thursday morning to inspect the damaged area.

The vessel is proceeding to the next port of call.

This drone attack is in addition to the recent continuous attacks and hijack events taking place towards the region.

It was on January 5 that the Navy’s marine commandos boarded a Liberian-flagged cargo ship MV Lila Norfolk that was sought to be hijacked by armed pirates in the northern Arabian Sea off Somalia’s coast and rescued 21 crew members, including 15 Indians.

The MV Lila Norfolk incident followed days after two merchant vessels, MV Ruen and MV Chem Pluto, came under attack recently in the Arabian Sea. MV Ruen was hijacked on December 14 while MV Chem Pluto was hit in a drone strike on December 23.

A large percentage of India’s trade, including oil and fertilisers, passes through the Gulf of Aden.A major portion of Indian imports and exports moves through the Gulf of Aden route. It is carried out onboard Indian-flagged merchant ships foreign vessels. And, a large number of foreign flagged vessels comprise of Indian crew.

In response to the rise in maritime security incidents on merchant vessels transiting through international shipping lanes in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Central/ North Arabian Sea, the Indian Navy has substantially enhanced maritime surveillance efforts in the Central/ North Arabian Sea and augmented force levels. Warships and surveillance aircraft have been pressed into deployment.

Commander (Cdr) Vivek Madhwal Spokesperson Indian Navy had apprised that the “Task Groups comprising destroyers and frigates have been deployed to undertake maritime security operations and help merchant vessels in case of any incident. Aerial surveillance by long-range maritime patrol aircraft and RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) has been enhanced to have a complete maritime domain awareness.”

The deployment into the Arabian Sea includes the Navy’s missile destroyers, including INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, INS Mormugao, INS Chennai, and INS Visakhapatnam.

The INS Kolkata is deployed on the mouth of the Red Sea, INS Kochi on the south of Yemen Socotra Island, INS Mormugao in the west Arabian Sea, and INS Chennai in the central Arabian Sea.

INS Visakhapatnam was moved in early this week and was tasked to patrol the north Arabian Sea.

The Indian Navy has also deployed Boeing-made Boeing P8I multi-mission aircraft along with long endurance Sea Guardian drones to constantly survey the vessels in the Arabian Sea and up to the Gulf of Aden to identify suspicious ships.