New Delhi: The Indian Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal team carried out a detailed inspection of merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto on its arrival at Mumbai harbour, two days after the ship was hit by a drone off India’s west coast in the Arabian Sea when it was on its way to New Mangalore port.
Given the spate of attacks on commercial vessels in the Arabian Sea, the Navy deployed P-8I long-range patrol aircraft for surveillance, and warships INS Mormugao, INS Kochi, and INS Kolkata in the region to maintain “deterrent presence”, officials said.
The drone attack December 23 on Liberian-flagged MV Chem Pluto came amid increasing concerns over various commercial vessels being targeted reportedly by Iran-backed Houthi militants in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Liberian-flagged vessel with 21 Indian and one Vietnamese crew, anchored at outer anchorage off Mumbai at 3:30 pm.
“On her arrival, the Indian Navy explosive ordnance disposal team inspected the vessel to make a preliminary assessment of the type and nature of attack. The analysis of the area of attack and debris found on the ship points towards a drone attack,” a Navy spokesperson said.
“However, further forensic and technical analysis will be required to establish the vector of attack including type and amount of explosive used,” he said. A Pentagon spokesperson said on December 24 that MV Chem Pluto was hit by “a one-way attack drone fired from Iran”.
The Indian Navy spokesperson said a joint investigation by various agencies commenced following completion of the analysis of the vessel by the explosive ordnance team.
“MV Chem Pluto has been cleared for further operation by her company-in-charge at Mumbai. The ship is scheduled to undergo mandatory checks by the various inspecting authorities before undertaking ship-to-ship transfer of cargo,” he said.
“This is likely to be followed by docking and repairs of the damaged portion of MV Chem Pluto,” he said. The official said three guided missile destroyers have been deployed in the Arabian Sea in view of spate of attacks on commercial vessels in the region.
MV Chem Pluto, carrying crude oil to New Mangalore port from Al Jubail port in Saudi Arabia, was struck about 217 nautical miles from Porbandar. No one was injured in the incident. A Gabon-flagged commercial crude oil tanker with 25 Indian crew members also came under a drone attack in the Southern Red Sea on December 23 but no one was injured, according to Indian officials and the US military.
“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 official said. He said long-range maritime reconnaissance P8I aircraft are being regularly tasked to maintain domain awareness.
“Western Naval Command’s Maritime Operations Centre is actively monitoring the situation in close coordination with Coast Guard and all concerned agencies,” he said.