Indian Navy foils bid to hijack commercial ship MV Lila Norfolk in north Arabian Sea

Team India Sentinels Friday 5th of January 2024 04:34 PM

Screenshot of a video released by the Indian Navy showing MV Lila Norfolk as MARCOS commandos approach it in a speedboat.

New Delhi: The Indian Navy, on Friday, said its special force commandos, MARCOS (acronym of Marine Commandos from its official name Marine Commando Force), have rescued all crew members from a Liberian-flagged commercial vessel – MV Lila Norfolk – after an attempt to hijack the ship in the Arabian Sea, on Thursday. The incident took place in the northern part of the sea off the coast of Somalia.

In a statement, the Navy said its “mission deployed” platforms responded swiftly to the bulk carrier’s mayday call in the Arabian Sea on the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) portal, in which the crew indicated the boarding of approximately five to six unknown armed men on Thursday evening. After intercepting the ship, the MARCOS commandos stormed the ship and rescued 21 crew members, including 15 Indians.

However, no pirates were found on the ship after the commandos started their operation on the ship. “The attempt of hijacking by the pirates was probably abandoned with the forceful warning by the Indian Navy, marine patrol aircraft, of interception by an Indian naval warship,” the Navy said.

The Navy said its forces were still carrying out “sanitization” operations on the ship and closely monitoring the situation, in coordination with other agencies with eyes and resources in the area.

According to British maritime security firm Ambrey, the vessel was destined for Khalifa bin Salman in Bahrain. However, it was not immediately clear what cargo it was carrying.

The Navy said in its response to the incident, the force launched a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and diverted the guided-missile destroyer INS Chennai, which was deployed for maritime security operations (MSO) in the area, to assist the vessel. The aircraft overflew the vessel on the early morning of Friday and established contact with the vessel, ascertaining the safety of the crew.

The Navy said it is closely monitoring the situation, in coordination with other agencies in the area. According to some reports, a SeaGuardian drone has been also pressed into service to scan the area.

This incident happened within 20 days of the hijacking of another commercial vessel in the area. The MV Ruen was hijacked by Somali pirates, on December 14, 2023, in a similar fashion and from approximately the same area where the incident with MV Lila Norfolk happened. Even at that time, the India Navy was the first to respond to the ship’s distress call, but by then, the pirates had taken full control over the ship. At that time, a little-known Indian Navy agency called Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), which is based in Haryana’s Gurugram, played a key role in the Navy’s response to the incident.

Since Yemen’s Houthi rebels have threatened to strike Israel-linked ships in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea because of Israel’s relentless military campaign against Palestinians in Gaza, global commercial shipping has been impacted in a major way in the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden-north and central Arabian Sea maritime lanes. Somali pirates, who have been inactive for almost six years, suddenly have become active taking advantage of the volatile situation in the region.

On December 24, 2023, MV Chem Pluto, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Dutch-operated chemical tanker for India, was hit by a drone in the northern Arabian Sea approximately 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the Gujarat coast, as India Sentinels had reported. Although no group or country has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the attack, the United States said Iran was behind it.

However, Tehran rubbished the claim.


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