Vessel with 20 Indians on board hit by drone; Navy, Coast Guard step in

The Liberia-flagged tanker with crude oil was heading to Mangaluru when the attack took place just outside the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone

Updated - December 24, 2023 11:05 am IST

Published - December 23, 2023 03:25 pm IST

Aerial visuals of MV Chem Pluto. Photo: X/@IndiaCoastGuard

Aerial visuals of MV Chem Pluto. Photo: X/@IndiaCoastGuard

In what could be the crisis in the Red Sea spilling close to Indian waters, a Liberian-flagged merchant vessel, Chem Pluto, was hit by a suspected drone on Saturday just outside the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Coast Guard and the Navy swung into action to assist the vessel that suffered significant damage, though the crew were reported safe. It is now heading towards Mumbai.

The ship with 21 crew members— 20 Indians and one Vietnamese national — was located around 217 nautical miles from the Porbandar coast in the Arabian Sea when it was hit.

“The vessel has started making way towards Mumbai post undertaking damage assessment and repairs on its power generation systems. The vessel is likely to enter Mumbai and sought escort assistance due to steering issues. ICGS Vikram will be escorting the ship during its passage,” Commandant Niranjan Pratap Singh, PRO Indian Coast Guard, said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the Coast Guard directed ICGS Vikram, which was on deployment in the Indian EEZ, towards the merchant vessel . The Liberia-flagged tanker was moving from Saudi Arabia to Mangaluru with crude oil, as per marine tracking portals.

A Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard reached the location for visual inspection and established communication with Chem Pluto, Commandant Singh said.

The Navy too dispatched a maritime patrol aircraft which arrived overhead the merchant vessel and ascertained the safety of the crew. “A warship has also been despatched to provide any assistance as required,” a Navy official said in the day giving an update on the situation.

M.V. Chem Pluto reportedly commenced its voyage from the UAE on December 19 and was scheduled to arrive at the New Mangalore ort on December 25, the Coast Guard stated.

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Coordination Centre (MRCC) established real-time communication with the vessel’s agent and ascertained nil loss of life and assured all assistance, Commandant Singh said. “It was also learnt that the vessel fire has been doused by the crew,” he said adding that to augment the vessel’s safety other merchant vessels in the vicinity of Chem Pluto were also diverted for rendering assistance.

The Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), located in Gurugram, is coordinating the communication between the Navy and the shipping company, officials said.

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