Indian and Chinese navies rescue ship off Yemen coast from Somali pirates

In a joint operation, the Indian navy and its Chinese counterpart on Sunday rescued a a bulk carrier ship OS35 off the coast of Aden which was suspected to have been hijacked by Somali pirates on Saturday. The latest pirate attack followed a string of attacks after years of calm.

Early on Sunday, the Indian naval ships managed to establish contact with the container ship's captain who, along with his crew members, had locked themselves in a strongroom onboard, as per stand operating procedures.

An Indian Navy helicopter taking off from INS Mumbai carried out an aerial reconnaissance of the ship to "sanitise" the upper decks of the ship and trace the whereabouts of the pirates who could still be on board.

Emboldened by the Indian Naval cover and on receiving an "all clear signal" that there was no sign of any pirate on board, the crew members gradually emerged from the strong room.

Later, an 18-member Peoples Liberation Army Chinese Navy team from its warship PLA-CNS Yulin boarded the ship, while the Indian Navy helicopter provided air cover for the massive 171-metre long X 28 metres wide, 18-year-old bulk carrier.

The Chinese team carried out a full search of the ship along with the crew and ascertained the pirates had escaped under cover of darkness after their hijack attempt was foiled due to timely rescue operations mounted by international maritime forces in the vicinity.

The captain of the Tuvalu-flagged ship expressed his gratitude to the Indian Navy, while both Indian Navy and the Chinese Navy thanked each other for the successful joint high seas operation on the critical maritime corridor.

Graeme Gibbon-Brooks, the head of private company Dryad Maritime Intelligence had confirmed the hijacking on Saturday.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which coordinates shipping in the Gulf of Aden area, said on its website it had received a notification earlier on Saturday from a vessel in an area in the Gulf of Aden that was under attack and may have been boarded

"Vessels transiting the area are advised to exercise extreme caution," UKMTO said, without giving more details.

A file photo of Somali pirates. AFP

A file photo of Somali pirates. AFP

Shipowners have become less wary of piracy after a long period of calm off the Horn of Africa, experts say, and some have started using a route known as the Socotra Gap, between Somalia and Socotra Island, to save time and costs. The route is considered riskier than others.

Earlier this month, officials said Somali pirates had seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew members as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Socotra Island and Somalia's coast.

In March, Somali pirates hijacked a Comoros-flagged oil tanker, marking the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew without conditions.

Pirates later seized a fishing trawler, which Somali authorities warned could be used for further piracy.

Piracy off Somalia's coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. In December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia's waters.

But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.


With inputs from agencies


Published Date: Apr 09, 2017 11:09 am | Updated Date: Apr 09, 2017 02:32 pm

Also See