Navy Rushes to Aid Ship Hit by Houthi Drone

New Delhi: Indian Navy guided-missile destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, deployed in the Gulf of Aden to hunt down pirates, responded swiftly to a distress call by a Marshall Island-flagged merchant ship MV Genco Picardy which was attacked by a drone apparently launched by Yemen-based Houthi rebels on Wednesday midnight. The India-bound ship, with nine Indians among its 22 crew. suffered some damage and a fire broke out which was quickly doused. There were no injuries due to the attack.

The bulk carrier was going from Safaga port in Egypt in the Red Sea to Toothukudi (Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu, as per maritime traffic tracking portals. As per these websites, the ship was in Mumbai last month.

INS Visakhapatnam acknowledged the distress call by the Genco Picardy and reached the spot within an hour to help the vessel. The Navy's EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists boarded the vessel early on Thursday morning and rendered the ship safe. The ship was proceeding to the next port of call, the Navy said.

The Genco Picardy, with a carrying capacity of 55317 tonnes deadweight tonnage, was reportedly carrying phosphate.

The strike on the Genco Picardy, around 60 nautical miles (111 km) south of Port Aden came amid increasing global concerns over attacks on merchant ships in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. Indian Navy has deployed around a dozen warships in the Arabian Sea to deal with pirates and drone attacks.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar said on Thursday that the Indian Navy would not allow any "instability". "We are deployed to ensure that our national interest in the maritime domain is protected. We have our own deployments. We have two ongoing anti-piracy operations there and anti-drone support for merchant shipping," the Navy chief said.

He said that the job of the Navy “is to ensure that we preserve, protect and pursue our national interest” in the maritime domain. "Operation Sankalp is happening close to the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Oman. We had witnessed that till last year, piracy had reduced almost to zero. But subsequently, we saw a resurgence... We have deployed an adequate number of assets. We are not going to allow any piracy to happen," Adm Kumar said.

He added that no attacks have happened on Indian merchant ships. " Last time they attempted piracy attack on a ship with a high number of Indian crew, our assets were deployed immediately, (and) we responded," the admiral said. "Our message is that we are not going to permit any instability or insecurity happening," he added.

US military's Central Command said on Thursday that a drone launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen struck MV Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden. It said that the vessel is owned and operated by a US company.

Last month also an India bound merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto was attacked by a drone around 220 nautical miles southwest of Porbandar. Yemen-based Houthi rebels have been attacking commercial shipping with drones and missiles in the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea in support of the Palestinians.

Earlier this month, Indian Navy had foiled the attempted hijacking of Liberian-flagged vessel MV Lila Norfolk and rescued all its crew members.

TASS news agency reported that Houthis from Yemen's rebel Ansar Allah movement acknowledged the attack. "The Yemeni naval forces conducted an operation, during which the US Genco Picardy ship was attacked with several anti-ship missiles in the Gulf of Aden," the movement’s military spokesperson Yahya Area told the Houthi-controlled television channels. According to the spokesman, the attack was staged in response to the strikes by the US and the UK on Houthi targets in Yemen.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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