INS Chennai moving towards hijacked vessel off Somalia coast; 15 Indians aboard

15 Indian crew are on board the Liberian-flagged vessel which was hijacked near Somalia's coast.
15 Indian crew are on board the Liberian-flagged vessel which was hijacked near Somalia's coast.

The Indian Navy is closely monitoring a recent incident involving a hijacked merchant ship reported near Somalia’s coast. The vessel in question, the Liberian-flagged ‘MV Lila Norfolk,’ is believed to have 15 Indian crew members on board, as per officials cited by ANI.

In response, Indian Navy aircraft have been deployed to maintain a vigilant watch on the movements of the hijacked ship. Communication has been established with the vessel, providing a crucial link to assess the safety and situation of the crew.

According to the Indian Navy statement, the ship sent a distress message on the UKMTO (United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations) portal, indicating an unauthorized boarding by approximately five to six unknown armed individuals on the evening of January 4, 2024.

In response to the situation, the Indian warship INS Chennai is en route to address the hijacking incident.

“The naval aircraft continues to monitor the movement, and INS Chennai is heading towards the vessel to provide assistance. The situation is under close observation in coordination with other agencies and the Maritime Security Task Force in the area,” the Navy’s statement mentioned.

Details about the hijacking, including the identities of the perpetrators, remain undisclosed at present.

This hijacking event comes in the wake of another recent incident in the Arabian Sea where a Maltese-flagged merchant vessel was seized by unknown attackers. Six ‘pirates’ had reportedly boarded the vessel. In response, the Indian Navy evacuated an injured Bulgarian crew member from the hijacked cargo vessel for medical care using the INS Kochi.

Piracy attacks in the region had seen a peak between 2008 and 2013 but have subsequently decreased due to the combined efforts of multinational maritime task forces, including the Indian Navy.