New Delhi: In a swift and successful operation, the Indian Navy has rescued all 21 crew members of a cargo ship that was hijacked by pirates in the North Arabian Sea. The ship, MV Lila Norfolk, was on its way from Oman to India when it was attacked by armed men on a skiff late on Thursday night near the coast of Somalia.
The hijacking report was issued by UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), a British military organization that monitors the movements of various ships in strategic waterways. Out of the 21 crew members on board the ship, 15 were Indians and six were from other countries.
As soon as the Indian Navy received the distress signal, it dispatched its warship INS Chennai, which was on anti-piracy patrol in the region, to intercept the hijacked ship. INS Chennai also launched its helicopter and deployed its MARCOS commandos, the elite special forces of the Navy, to board and search the ship.
According to the Navy, the hijackers had fled the ship before the commandos arrived, leaving behind some weapons and ammunition. The Navy said that the crew members were safe and unharmed and that the ship’s power generation, production, and navigation systems were being restored to help it resume its voyage to the next port.
The Navy also said that it had kept the hijacked ship under constant surveillance using maritime patrol aircraft, Predator MQ9B, and integral helos and that it had warned the pirates to leave the ship or face consequences.
The Navy also said that it had coordinated with the Indian Coast Guard, the Indian Mission in Oman, the ship’s owner, and the UKMTO during the operation.
This is the second time in less than a month that the Indian Navy has foiled a piracy attempt in the Arabian Sea. On December 12, 2023, the Navy chased away a group of pirates who had tried to board an Indian fishing vessel near Lakshadweep.
The Navy has been maintaining a high level of vigilance and presence in the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea to deter recent maritime attacks, which also included a drone attack on a ship off the coast of India, for which the US blamed Iran.
The Navy has also been monitoring the situation in the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have carried out drone and missile attacks in Gaza in solidarity with the Palestinians, forcing many ships to change their routes.
Key facts of the hijacking incident and the Navy’s operation:
|Name of the hijacked ship
|MV Lila Norfolk
|Origin and destination of the ship
|Oman to India
|Date and time of the hijacking
|Thursday, January 4, 2024, around 11 pm
|Location of the hijacking
|North Arabian Sea, near the coast of Somalia
|Number and nationality of the crew members
|21 (15 Indians, 6 others)
|Name of the Navy warship that intercepted the ship
|Name of the Navy helicopter that launched the commandos
|Name of the Navy special forces that boarded and searched the ship
|Status of the crew members
|Safe and unharmed
|Status of the ship
|Power generation, production, and navigation systems are being restored
|Status of the hijackers
|Fled the ship, leaving behind weapons and ammunition