KOCHI: In a joint operation, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard intercepted a vessel being used by Somali pirates 200 miles off Kochi in the Arabian Sea on Friday. Sunday, 30.Jan.2011, 01:51 (GMT+3)
Pirate mother ship Prantalay 14 towing skiffs prior to hoisting them on board. The skiffs were used by the pirates to chase merchant vessel CMA CGM Verdi off Lakshadweep on Friday, but with a Coast Guard Dornier challenging them, they were forced to retreat.
KOCHI: In a joint operation, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard intercepted a vessel being used by Somali pirates 200 miles off Kochi in the Arabian Sea on Friday. They rescued 20 fishermen hailing from Thailand and Myanmar being held hostage on board the vessel. They also rescued 15 pirates who jumped into the sea during the operation and took them into custody.
The vessel, named Prantalay', originally belonged to Thai fishermen. It was hijacked by the Somali pirates in April 2010. They were using it as mother vessel for piracy since then. The vessel, which posed a risk to international shipping for many months and carried out several attacks, was destroyed in the operation. The rescued fishermen will be brought to Kochi while the pirates are being taken to Mumbai, defence ministry sources told TOI.
The operation began at about 10.30am on Friday when a Coast Guard Dornier aircraft, responding to a Mayday (distress) call from a Bahama-flagged container ship, MV CMA CGM Verdi, located two skiffs attempting a piracy attack, a ministry release said.
Seeing the aircraft, the skiffs immediately aborted their attempt and dashed towards the mother vessel Prantalay'. The ship hurriedly hoisted the two skiffs onboard and set a westerly course to escape from the area. While the Dornier continuously tracked the vessel, Indian Naval Ship Cankarso, a recently commissioned water jet-propelled fast attack craft which was deployed in the area for anti-piracy patrol, was directed to intercept and investigate Prantalay'.
INS Cankarso closed in on Prantalay' at about 5pm and made all efforts to establish communication with it. But the vessel did not respond and continued to proceed westwards, apparently hoping to evade interception by the Indian forces.
INS Cankarso then fired a warning shot in front of the pirate ship's bow in keeping with international norms. Prantalay' suddenly opened fire forcing INS Cankarso to return fire in self defence, the release said. The naval ship's crew noticed that a fire had broken out on Prantalay'. One reason for this could be that pirate mother vessels are known to carry additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs, the press release said. People were also seen jumping overboard from the vessel which was soon engulfed in flames. Fifteen pirates were rescued from the sea.
INS Cankarso was subsequently joined by INS Kalpeni and the Coast Guard's CGS Sankalp. The Naval and Coast Guard ships and the aircraft are presently in the area searching for any fishermen or pirates.
The Navy and the Coast Guard have been maintaining vigil west of the Lakshadweep Islands in the last two months following reports about pirates using hijacked vessels in the region. "This has proved effective in keeping the international shipping lanes in this region safe from piracy attacks and piracy incidents in this area have seen a 75% decline since December 2010," the release said.