After latest ship hijack, India vows increased surveillance
Two days after the coast guard and navy personnel seized a pirate mother ship, Prantalay 11 off the Lakshadweep coast and apprehended 28 Somali pirates, another hijack has been reported from the Indian Ocean today, off the coast of Somalia .
KOCHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Two days after the coast guard and
navy personnel seized a pirate mother ship, Prantalay
11 off the Lakshadweep coast and apprehended 28 Somali pirates, another hijack has been reported from the Indian Ocean today,
off the coast of Somalia .
Navy officials in Kochi told ET that the vessel hijacked today was about 800 km from the Indian coast, towards the African coast. "There has been no action from our side in this incident so far", sources said. Unconfirmed reports said the vessel was Italian, that there were 22 crew on board, and that many of the crew were Indian.
Defence minister AK Antony underscored the gravity of the situation in the seas off the Indian coast, pointing out that the shipping channels were not as safe as before, adding that surveillance activities would be stepped up. "In the wake of increasing incidents of pirate attacks, the Indian navy, coast guard and air force will step up surveillance in the coastal areas of the country, particularly off Kerala and Lakshadweep", Antony said.
On the larger issue of increasing piracy, Antony said there appeared to be some forces working behind the pirates. "By themselves, the pirates do not seem capable of doing all these. There appears to be some force behind them, that we have not identified yet", he said.
The defence minister, who inaugurated a new unit of Bharat Electronics at the Kinfra Hi-tech park at Kalamassery in Kochi, said the BEL unit would be a product support centre that will support multiple users like the National Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory, the navy and the coast guard, and also assist in service, repair, development and testing of equipment that are used in surveillance and defence activities.
He said that the capacity at BEL would also go up as the scope of surveillance operations were enhanced. The recent incidents occurred off the Lakshadweep coast, in the shipping channel referred to as 8 degree channel, which is a busy shipping route with about 50 ships passing each day, making it attractive for pirates to lie in wait and attack passing ships.
Antony said one reason for an increase in case of piracy off the Indian coast could be because of stricter surveillance near the African coast, which may have prompted pirates to move to other locations. On the issue of a joint surveillance in the seas by different countries, the defence minister said it may happen under the supervision of the UN.
On Sunday, Prantalay 11 was seized by the coast guard and navy after an exchange of fire. The success for the Indian security agencies came just a week after they had sunk Prantalay 14. Officials believe that Prantalay 11 was the pirate mother ship and that Prantalay 14 was one of the sister ships used in the pirates' operations.
Navy officials later transferred the pirates and the original crew of the seized ships to the Mumbai police.
The Prantalay series of ships are reportedly part of a Thai fleet of ships that are distinguished by their numbers. While Prantalay 14 was sunk and Prantalay 11 captured, Prantalay 12 is believed to be still in the custody of pirates.