No ship under Indian Navy's escort hijacked in Gulf of Aden since Oct 2008

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New Delhi, Apr 13 (ANI): No merchant ship under the escort of an Indian Naval warship has been hijacked since 2008 in the Gulf of Aden and more than 15 piracy attempts have been prevented by Indian Naval warships.

INS Betwa with an armed helicopter and Marine Commando team has replaced INS Beas on anti piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden recently. She is the 16th Indian Naval ship to be deployed since Oct 2008, a Ministry of Defence release said.

During this period, Indian Naval ships have safely escorted more than 930 merchant ships of different nationalities, with, over 7780 Indians as crew. These include over 124 Indian flagged merchant ships.

In view of the risk of piracy, most of the merchant vessels now transit through the Gulf of Aden where a large number of warships are deployed.

Only limited number of vessels operate off the East coast of Africa or Somalia. Several Indian Dhows, however, continue to engage in regular trade between Persian Gulf / India and ports on the East coast of Africa and Somalia.

The owners and crew of these dhows are fully aware of the risks and dangers of operating so close to the Somali coast, but they continue to do so probably for commercial considerations.

Pirates do not usually seek ransom from dhow owners, but dhows are attractive vessels for use as "mother ships" to launch further piracy attacks on other merchant vessels.

In addition to India, warships of other countries are also operating in the Gulf of Aden. On an average 16 - 18 warships are deployed in the Gulf of Aden at any given time, which is indicative of the seriousness of the problem of piracy.

As a result, the number of successful piracy attempts in the Gulf of Aden has shown a downward trend, but piracy is spreading away from the Gulf of Aden deeper into the Indian Ocean. Dhows are suitable craft for supporting the pirates at such distances.

It is for this reason that Dhow owners have been repeatedly advised to avoid the piracy prone areas off Somalia. Despite the advisories issued by the DG Shipping, Indian dhows continue to operate in these piracy infested areas, placing at risk the lives of Indian crew onboard.

Though periodic incidents of hijacking of dhows had been reported earlier, in the past few days, there has been a spurt of reports indicating hijackings of Indian dhows off Somalia.

Reports also indicate that most of the dhows have been released safely and only two dhows are still in captivity. This indicates that that the hijackings of the dhows are normally not linked to ransom nor are they life threatening for the hijacked crew.

Not withstanding the presence of a large number of multinational naval forces in the Gulf of Aden, the contribution of the Indian Navy for anti piracy efforts in the region will continue in future. (ANI)

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