December 8, 2010 2:03:56 am
The Navy has bolstered its presence around the Lakshadweep Islands following an increased threat by suspected Somali pirates. Later this month,Defence Minister A K Antony will be visiting the Minicoy Island,from near which pirates captured a Bangladeshi mercant vessel on Sunday,to take stock of the situation.
The Navy has deployed an unspecified number of ships to deter pirates who are suspected to be using a hijacked ship as a mother vessel to carry out attacks. They seized the Bangladeshi vessel on Sunday barely 70 nautical miless off Minicoy. The Navy is concerned given that the attacks are taking place in the eight degree channel between Minicoy Island and the Maldives,which witnesses a traffic of 30-40 vessels everyday.
The first attempt in the area took place on November 30 when a container ship came under attack from a skiff with five armed pirates on board. The pirates fired upon the vessel,but it managed to evade them.
On November 2,another attempt took place 150 nautical miles north west of Minicoy when four armed pirates with rocket-propelled grenades and guns attempted to board a container ship but were thwarted.
Suspected Somali pirates finally struck on Sunday (December 5) and managed to capture the MV Jahan Moni,a Bangladeshi-flagged ship that was on its way to Europe with 25 crew members and 41,000 tonnes of nickel ore on board.
Sources said the Navy did receive a distress signal from the ship but did not have any assets in the vicinity that could respond on time. As per international convention,once a ship was been captured,no attempt is made to board due to concerns regarding safety of the crew, a Navy officer said.
The Navy also revealed that it chased away a suspected pirate mother vessel from the same waters on Saturday,a day before the Bangladeshi ship was hijacked,and rescued a Thai national who was thrown into the sea by the fleeing pirates. The trawler has been identified as Prantalay 12,which had been hijacked two months ago.
During his visit to Minicoy,Antony will inaugurate a Coast Guard station on the island,one of the several approved following the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
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