Chemical tanker MV Chem Pluto comes under drone attack in Arabian Sea, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard respond

Team India Sentinels Sunday 24th of December 2023 02:25 PM

MV Chem Pluto. (Photo: Indian Coast Guard)

New Delhi: A suspected drone attack on a chemical tanker in the Arabian Sea has raised security concerns for the maritime traffic in the region. The Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned and Dutch-operated vessel, Chem Pluto, was carrying crude oil from Saudi Arabia to India when it was hit by a projectile on Saturday.

The attack took place in the northern Arabian Sea approximately 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the Gujarat coast, according to United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO). It caused a fire on board, but no injuries were reported among the 22 crew members, of which 21 are Indian and one Vietnamese.

The Indian Navy swiftly responded to the incident and sent a patrol vessel and a maritime patrol aircraft to the scene. The Navy also communicated with the Indian Coast Guard and other maritime agencies to provide assistance to the tanker.

In a release, the Coast Guard said: “The Indian Coast Guard Maritime Coordination Centre (MRCC) established real-time communication with the vessel’s agent and ascertained nil loss of life and assured all assistance. It was also learnt that the vessel fire has been doused by the crew.”

The Coast Guard also said a patrol vessel, ICGS Vikram, and a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft have been pressed into action for rendering assistance to Chem Pluto. The aircraft has sanitized the area and established communication with the tanker.

It further said Chem Pluto has started sailing towards Mumbai after undertaking damage assessment and repairs on its power generation systems under the ICGS Vikram’s escort.

Meanwhile, the Navy said its explosive ordnance disposal team will examine the vessel and conduct further investigation after it reaches Mumbai.

US says Iran behind attack

Several aspects of the attack remain unclear, including the motive, the specific type of drone used, and the identity of the perpetrators. However, this comes amid heightened tensions in the region, with Iranian-backed Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting Israeli-linked commercial vessels in the Red Sea as a response to Israeli airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza.

Some sources suggest that the tanker may have been targeted because of its link to an Israeli billionaire, Idan Ofer, who owns the operator company, Ace Quantum Chemical Tankers.

However, the United States said the attack was carried out by a suicide drone launched by the Iranian military. Iran and Israel have been engaged in a proxy conflict in the region, involving attacks on each other’s assets and interests. The Pentagon also said the drone was launched from Iranian territory.

However, I ran has rejected the US claim that it was behind a drone attack on MV Chem Pluto. It said Washington was accusing it to “distract from its complicity in Israel’s crimes in Gaza”.

India is yet to release an official statement on the US’s allegation and Iran’s response.

The on Chem Pluto is the latest in a series of incidents that have threatened the stability and security of the maritime domain in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. In July 2021, a drone attack on an Israeli-managed tanker near Oman killed two crew members and sparked international condemnation. In the same month, Iran accused Israel of sabotaging its nuclear facility and vowed to retaliate.

The Indian Navy has deployed multiple guided missile destroyers to the Arabian Sea to protect its shipping interests and ensure the safety of merchant vessels. The Navy’s Information Fusion Centre in the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), as reported by India Sentinels, is enhancing maritime domain awareness and cooperation among the littoral states.


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