The Indian Navy has safely escorted about 150 lakh tonnes of critical commodities, such as crude oil and fertilizer, on its way to Indian shores from the Red Sea and west of Gulf of Aden in the last 100 days since its first intervention on December 14, last year, when maritime vessel (MV) Ruen was hijacked by Somalian pirates, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Saturday.

Regular requests are pouring in from Union Ministries such as Commerce and Shipping for protection of commodities coming through the troubled maritime route, Admiral Kumar said. On an average, 10-15 ships pass daily through Red Sea and go west of Gulf of Aden. They contact the naval warships deployed in that troubled region, which is as far as 2,600 km away from Indian shores, for safe transport of commodities, a senior Indian Navy officer in-charge of operations told businessline.

In his address to the media on 100 days of successful maritime operations, the Navy Chief said, “This is the Indian Ocean, named after us, and if we don’t take action, then who will? Bhartiya Nau Sena will take affirmative action to ensure there is safety and security in the Indian Ocean”.

Drop in trade

Maritime trade took nearly 50 per cent drop owing to Houthi attack and increased piracy since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict last October, the Naval chief pointed out while reiterating that none of Indian-flagged maritime vessels have been attacked either by Somalian pirates or Houthi rebels. “They have done to vessels that carried flags of Israel or was bound for their port or of the US and UK, but our interest lies since many of them have Indian crew on board,” Kumar said.

About 40-50 per cent of the ships have started rerouting their sail around the Cape of Good Hope leading to increase in freight and insurance charges, he stated. “The effect will be felt by you and me. The cost will have to be borne by customers. Therefore, we are taking proactive steps, like to say that we will escort ships that come to Red Sea for doing normal passing,” he said.

Piracies on the rise

Admiral Hari Kumar said that piracy has resurfaced as an ‘industry’ to gain from ‘disorder in the region’ after October 2023 conflict between Israel and Hamas but vowed further intervention from the Indian Navy to secure distressed shipping assets on the high seas.

During this period, there were 90 incidents of drone and missile attacks on vessels and piracy attempts in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and East of Somalia, according to the Indian Navy. Under Operation Sankalp, which has been ongoing since 2019 but saw intensified efforts by the Indian Navy particularly since December 23, over 5,000 personnel were deployed at sea for more than 450 ship days. Additionally, more than 21 ships were mobilized into action, and maritime surveillance aircraft conducted 900 hours of flying to counter threats in the maritime domain.

The significance of Indian Navy’s contributions have been further underscored with the culmination of actions against MV Ruen — which Somalian pirates used as mothership since hijacking it on December 14. On March 14, after getting information about Ruen, the mission deployed INS Kolkotta, with the aide of Sea Guardian remotely piloted aircraft and P8I surveillance aircraft and Marcos commandos airdropped, disarmed 35 Somalian pirates and rescued 17 hostages to take control of the ship. The pirates have been brought to Mumbai to face trial under the newly enacted Maritime Anti-Piracy law.

The Navy has deployed ten warships, helicopters, P8Is surveillance aircraft and drones to patrol at Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, North Arabian Sea and Gulf of Somalia. The Navy has also been able to save over 110 lives, including 45 Indian seafarers, and more than 3,000 kg of narcotics were seized.