Reports of an Iranian fishing vessel taken by Somali pirates

On Sunday, 23 June, local press reports indicated that an Indian Coast Guard vessel provided assistance to the crew of an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel that was stranded west of Lakshadweep Islands after it had been used as a pirate mother ship. According to reports, the Iranian fishing vessel departed the Iranian port of Konarak / Chabahar on 16 May. She was then hijacked by Somali pirates off Socotra Island, and was under the control of the pirates until they abandoned her on 10 June. The pirates took all food and fuel from the vessel.

On Friday, 21 June, when the vessel was some 250 nautical miles west of Lakshadweep Islands, the crew requested assistance from the Indian authorities. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) Mumbai co-ordinated the rescue mission, and tasked the Coast Guard to move to the area. According to reports, ICGS Varuna provided assistance to the crew, which included 13 Iranians and three Pakistanis, on Saturday, 22 June and escorted the vessel into the Indian Port of Kochi.

India has considerable interest in counter piracy initiatives because pirates, operating at times closer to the Indian coast than Somalia, have disrupted trade throughout the region. Consequently, the Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy have engaged in a number of proactive rescue missions in the past. Furthermore, the incident demonstrates that although there has been a reduction in the number of incidents of Somali piracy, there remains a latent threat of piracy throughout the region, and that pirates remain both operational and aspirational. Following the hijacking of a separate dhow on 5 June, the Operation Commander of EU NAVFOR, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant, stated “I am very concerned that seafarers and nations will lower their guard and support for counter piracy operations in the belief that the piracy threat is over. It is not; it is merely contained. We should remember that at its height in January 2011, 32 ships were pirated by Somali pirates and 736 hostages were held. It is crucial that we remain vigilant or the number of attacks will once again rise”.