It was a bad day for Somali pirates as warships from India, China and Pakistan operated jointly in the Gulf of Aden to rescue a merchant vessel attacked by them on Saturday night.
The Tuvalu-flagged bulk carrier (OS 35) was travelling from Kelang in Malaysia to the Yemeni port city of Aden when it was hijacked by the pirates, the latest in a string of attacks after several years of silence.
Immediately after receiving an SOS from the vessel, the Indian Navy diverted two of its warships — INS Mumbai and INS Tarkash — in the direction of the merchant ship.
The two warships were part of an Indian fleet of four vessels heading for an overseas deployment.
The Indian warships contacted the captain of the merchant vessel who along with the crew had locked themselves in a strong room on board, the navy said in a press statement.
Chinese, Pakistani and Italian warships that were in the vicinity also reached the spot.
The Chinese navy sent a team of 18 men to sanitise the 178-metre merchant vessel, with the Indian Navy providing the communication link and air cover with its helicopters.
The Chinese navy’s Yulin guided missile frigate also took part in the operation.
On receiving the all-clear signal, some crew gradually emerged from the strong room and searched the ship and confirmed the pirates had fled at night, the statement said.
The merchant vessel sailed to safety due to a joint effort, Indian Navy spokesperson captain DK Sharma said.
There was a lull in the Gulf of Aden for some time but now the pirates seem to be active again.
Earlier this month, they seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew 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.
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 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 frustration has been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.
*Culled from Hindustan Times