Given the recent surge in attacks on commercial ships in the Arabian Sea, officials have reported that the Indian Navy has stationed P-8I long-range patrol aircraft for monitoring purposes, along with warships INS Mormugao, INS Kochi, and INS Kolkata in the area to establish a "deterrent presence".
The drone attack on the Liberian-flagged MV Chem Pluto on Saturday has heightened worries as numerous commercial ships are allegedly being targeted by Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, in the midst of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
On Monday (25 December), the Indian Navy's explosive ordnance disposal team conducted a thorough inspection of the merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto upon its arrival at the Mumbai harbour.
The Navy spokesperson suggested that the analysis of the attack site and the debris found on the ship indicates a drone attack. "Nonetheless, additional forensic and technical examination is necessary to determine the method of attack, including the type and quantity of explosive utilised," he stated.
"The company overseeing MV Chem Pluto in Mumbai has given the green light for its continued operation. Before it can proceed with the transfer of cargo from one ship to another, the vessel is set to undergo compulsory inspections by various authorities," he added.
A spokesperson from the Pentagon confirmed on Sunday that the MV Chem Pluto was struck by a drone launched in a unilateral attack from Iran.
The MV Chem Pluto, which was transporting crude oil from Al Jubail port in Saudi Arabia to New Mangalore port, was hit approximately 217 nautical miles away from Porbandar on Saturday. The incident resulted in no injuries.
On Saturday, a commercial crude oil tanker flying the Gabon flag was subjected to a drone attack in the Southern Red Sea. The vessel had 25 Indian crew members on board, but fortunately, no injuries were reported, as confirmed by Indian officials and the US military.
"In response to the latest series of attacks in the Arabian Sea, the Indian Navy has stationed guided missile destroyers, including INS Mormugao, INS Kochi, and INS Kolkata, in different regions to uphold a preventative presence," stated the official.
He stated that long-range maritime reconnaissance P8I aircraft are consistently assigned to sustain domain awareness.
"The Maritime Operations Centre of the Western Naval Command is vigilantly tracking the situation in tight collaboration with the Coast Guard and all relevant agencies," he stated.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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