Coast Guard plane chases pirates away off Lakshadweep

Friday, January 28, 2011

NEW DELHI - Pirates closing in on a merchant vessel off the Lakshadweep were thwarted by the Indian Coast Guard Friday with its patrol aircraft chasing the sea brigands away through a timely intervention.

The Bahamas-flagged container carrier, MV CMA CGM Berd, was sailing west of the Lakshadweep Islands when the Coast Guard’s Dornier on a surveillance sortie noticed two skiffs in its vicinity around 10.30 a.m, a Navy official said.

Soon, the aircraft descended to pass over the merchant vessel to check on the suspicious activity.

Noticing the Coast Guard aircraft, the pirates abandoned their plans to attack the merchant vessel and quickly sailed away from there, the navy spokesperson said in a press release.

The patrol aircraft crew also sighted the mother-vessel of the pirates identified as merchant ship Prantalay, in the vicinity.

The navy and the Coast Guard rushed their ships to the location to keep a continuous watch on the movements of Prantalay, the spokesperson said.

“Because of the timely arrival of the aircraft, the merchant vessel is now safe and is heading for its next port of call in East Asia,” he added.

The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard are maintaining anti-piracy vigil around the Lakshadweep Islands since November last year when heightened activity of the sea brigands was noticed in the Arabian Sea.

The two maritime forces have based their ships permanently around the Lakshadweep islands to ward off the pirates, who have now reached the waters around the island chain due to the effective anti-piracy operations that multi-national navies are carrying out off the coast of Somalia in Gulf of Aden.

India joined the anti-piracy effort in October 2008 and has since escorted over 1,200 merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden.

“Anti-piracy patrols and surveillance in the east Arabian Sea will continue in order to assure merchant vessels using the international shipping lanes there of their security,” the spokesperson noted.

The Coast Guard has opened a new district headquarters in Kavatti and a station in Minicoy in the Lakshadweep Islands in December last. The navy plans to set up its base in the island chain to increase its operational reach and presence in the region in the coming years.

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