On a day when an India-bound vessel came under drone attack, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said they are coordinating with partner countries to ensure safe maritime passage amidst a resurgence of piracy activities following Israel-Hamas conflict. He, however, pointed out that there has been no attack on merchant vessel carrying Indian flag.

The chief of Naval staff told reporters at a function here that piracy incidents in Indian waters were reduced to ‘almost zero’ till the end of last year but it has gone up again. “We are ensuring that our national interests are preserved and protected. We have our deployments. We have had ongoing operations in the Indian Ocean Region, including anti-piracy operations since 2008.

If we see since 2008, we have deployed 106 ships to combat piracy. The job of the Navy is to ensure that we protect, promote, and pursue our national interests. Till last year, piracy was reduced to almost zero. However, subsequently, we saw a resurgence. It was probably a result of the disturbance happening because of the drone attacks in the Red Sea. So we have taken action and deployed an adequate number of assets. We are not going to permit any piracy to happen. We are taking appropriate measures,” he assured.

No attack on Indian Flag carriers

He added that the Indian Navy was working with other partners in the region to keep the waters safe. “A lot of disturbance has been happening but there has been no attack on any India-flagged merchant vessel. Last time there was a pirate attack on a ship carrying a large number of Indian crew. We responded to that immediately and deployed our troops. We are working with other partners in the region. Many partners want to ensure that the Pacific is free, open, inclusive, rules-based, safe and secure. We will collaborate with all our partners, even smaller countries in the region,” the Navy chief stated.

Meanwhile, Indian Navy’s guided missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, mission deployed in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations, responded swiftly to a last night drone attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Marshall Island flagged MV Genco Picardy, having nine Indian crew on board. The assistance provided by the Indian Navy warship ensured that Genco Picardy was safe for further sail to the next port of call. The vessel had left Saudi Arabia recently and was bound for India, an international news agency, Associated Press, reported.

Within an hour of getting the distress call, a Navy spokesperson stated, the INS Visakhapatnam managed to reach the vessel 70 nautical miles southeast of Eden, at 12.30 am on Thursday. The Naval ship had got the call at 11.11 pm on Wednesday.

MV Genco Picardy with 22 crew, including 9 Indians, did not suffer any serious damage because the fire erupted due to drone attack was brought under control, the spokesperson informed. No casualties were reported either, he added. “Indian Naval explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists from INS Visakhapatnam boarded the vessel on the early hours of 18 Jan 24 to inspect the damaged area, and after a thorough inspection, have rendered the area safe for further transit. The vessel is proceeding to the next port of call,” he stated.

Increased tensions

International news reports, quoting United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, stated that the US-owned Genco Picardy ship in the Gulf of Aden was attacked by a bomb-carrying drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. This is the second direct assault in the recent past on the America linked vessel.

In the last 40 to 42 days, 35 drone attacks took place on ships either owned or linked to Israel, mainly in the Red Sea, North Arabian Sea, and Central Arabian Sea, Businessline quoting Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar reported on January 10. The Indian Navy has collected samples of debris from three vessels and is examining them forensically to identify the origin of the attack, he had pointed out.