INS Kolkata secures release of 17 crew of merchant vessel turned pirate vessel Ruen, 35 pirates surrender

Then Malta-flagged tanker, with 18 crew onboard, sent a Mayday message on December 14 indicating boarding by approximately six unknown personnel

March 16, 2024 11:33 am | Updated 11:15 pm IST - New Delhi

Indian Navy foils an attempt by Somali pirates by intercepting their vessel.

Indian Navy foils an attempt by Somali pirates by intercepting their vessel. | Photo Credit: Indian Navy

In an end to the episode of the merchant vessel turned pirate vessel Ruen, Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata, in the last 40 hours, through concerted actions successfully cornered and coerced all 35 pirates to surrender and ensured safe evacuation of 17 crew members on Saturday evening from the pirate vessel without any injury, the Navy said late on Saturday.

The ex-Malta flagged merchant vessel Ruen which was hijacked on December 14 and taken to Somalian waters was turned into a pirate vessel and was reported being used as a pirate ship for further acts of piracy on the high seas. The vessel was intercepted by INS Kolkata on March 14 when it was fired upon.

“INS Kolkata had carried out the interception of the Pirate Ship Ruen almost 1400 nm (2600km) from the Indian Coast, and forced the pirate ship to stop through calibrated actions which were augmented by INS Subhadra, high altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and MARCOS air-dropped by C-17 aircraft,” the Navy Spokesperson said in a late update. “The vessel has also been sanitised for presence of illegal arms, ammunition and contraband.”

Earlier in the day, the Spokesperson said that the vessel opened fire on the warship, which is “taking actions in accordance with international law, in self defence and to counter piracy, with minimal force necessary to neutralise the pirates’ threat to shipping and seafarers.” The pirates onboard the vessel have been called upon to surrender and release the vessel and any civilians they may be holding against their will, the Navy said.

An important aspect pointed out by officials was that Ruen is no longer “Maltese flagged”. It is in fact flying no flag, and is hence stateless and to be considered as “pirate ship Ex-Ruen”, officials said. Actions against the vessel are accordingly as per international law against pirate and stateless vessels, and in self defence as the vessel has committed hostilities against Indian Navy, one official noted.

Then Malta-flagged tanker, with 18 crew onboard, sent a Mayday message on December 14 indicating boarding by approximately six unknown personnel. Following the distress call, the Indian Navy had diverted a P-8I undertaking surveillance in the area and a warship on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden to locate and assist Ruen. The vessel has since been held off Somali coast. On December 19, Indian Navy provided assistance in the evacuation of an injured crew member from the hijacked vessel who was later transferred ashore at Oman.

There has been a resurgence in piracy in the Horn of Africa coinciding with the volatile situation in the Red Sea with drone and missile attacks by Houthis on commercial shipping.

Hijack earlier this week

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh flagged merchant vessel MV Abdullah was hijacked by Somali pirates while it was enroute from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates.

Indian Navy’s warship deployed in the region and a P-8I responded to a piracy attack on receiving information on Tuesday evening and attempted to establish communication to ascertain status of ship’s crew members. The warship intercepted the hijacked vessel on Thursday morning but it was already hijacked and has later taken into the territorial waters of Somalia.

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