The MV Lila Norfolk, a Liberian-flagged cargo ship, was hijacked in the Arabian Sea, off the Somalia coast, on 4 January.

Reports said the bulk carrier had about 15 Indian crew members on board.

Indian Navy immediately despatched a frigate and an aircraft in response to a distress call from the ship.

“Responding swiftly to the developing situation, Indian Navy launched a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and has diverted the INS Chennai [frigate] deployed for Maritime Security Operations to assist the vessel,” the Indian government noted in a statement.

The statement also said, “The aircraft overflew the vessel on early morning of 5 Jan. and established contact with the vessel, ascertaining the Safety of the crew.”

It went on to add, “The naval aircraft continues to monitor movement and INS Chennai is closing the vessel to render assistance and that the overall situation is being closely monitored, in coordination with other agencies/MNF [multinational forces] in the area.”

The hijacking incident has further raised safe passage concerns for vessel ship operators already avoiding the Red Sea due to continuing drone attacks on merchant ships by Houthi rebels based in southern Yemen.

On 23 December, the MV Chem Pluto, a chemical tanker, was hit by a drone some 200 nautical miles off the coast of Gujarat. Indian naval forces assisted the Liberian-flagged cargo ship in dousing the fire that had broken out as a result of the attack. However, no casualties were reported.

“Considering the recent spate of attacks in the Arabian Sea, Indian Navy has deployed guided missile destroyers, INS Mormugao, INS Kochi and INS Kolkata, in various areas to maintain a deterrent presence,” the Indian government earlier noted.

The Red Sea crisis has already increased ocean freight rates to new highs, with further hikes expected in the coming weeks.

Jenny Daniel
Global Correspondent

Contact email: [email protected]

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