An Israel-affiliated merchant vessel, MV Chem Pluto, that was moving towards India with crude oil was hit by a drone on Saturday in the Arabian Sea off India's west coast. The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard rushed their aircraft and ships to aid the merchant vessel. (Representational Image: DC)

Drone Strikes Tanker Carrying Oil for India

New Delhi: An Israel-affiliated merchant vessel, MV Chem Pluto, that was moving towards India with crude oil was hit by a drone on Saturday in the Arabian Sea off India’s west coast. The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard rushed their aircraft and ships to aid the merchant vessel.

As per reports, the ship had around 20 Indian crew members.

According to UK maritime body UKMTO, the incident happened 200 nautical miles — about 370 km —  southwest of Veraval, in Gujarat. The drone-fired missile caused an explosion and fire on the vessel. However, there were no casualties and the crew was able to bring the fire under control.

Incidentally, an area of 200 nautical miles is considered to fall in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of a nation, as prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The country has exclusive rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind. The EEZ is considered to stretch from the outer limit of the territorial sea (22.224 km from the baseline) to 370.4 kilometres (or 200 nautical miles) from the coast.

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The Liberian-flagged oil tanker had last called Saudi Arabia and was destined for India at the time of the incident, as per another maritime body.

The vessel was carrying crude oil and was going towards Mangalore. “The Indian Navy had dispatched an aircraft, which arrived overhead the merchant vessel. The safety of the crew and ship was ascertained. A warship has also been dispatched to provide any assistance as required,” said sources in the Indian Navy.

The attack could signal a spillover of the Red Sea crisis near the Indian coast.

The Houthi rebels have been attacking Israel-bound commercial shipping with drones and missiles in support of the Palestinians, forcing shippers to change course and take longer routes around the southern tip of Africa. The incident could affect trade in the Indian Ocean region and also sharply increase ship insurance. This could make importing oil and other products more expensive.

The UKMTO that operates under Britain’s Royal Navy said it received a report of an attack by uncrewed aerial system (UAS) on a vessel causing an explosion and fire. It said the fire was “extinguished” and there were no casualties. The UKMTO said authorities are “investigating” the incident.

Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO,” it said. he UKMTO provides maritime security information and largely acts as the primary point of contact for merchant vessels involved in maritime incidents.

It receives reports and information on suspicious incidents from merchant shipping and shares that information with its regional, national contacts, as well as industry and vessels operating in that area, according to UKMTO.

The Indian Navy’s deployment of the maritime patrol aircraft and the warship came days after it swiftly responded to the hijacking of a Malta-flagged cargo vessel by pirates in the Arabian Sea.

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