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Explained: How Gurgaon-based IFC got Indian Navy to aid MV Ruen that was targetted by pirates in Somali waters

The Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), inaugurated in 2018, played a vital role in coordinating responses between the Indian Navy and the owner of the Malta-flagged merchant vessel Ruen, with 18 crew members, that was hijacked by pirates in Somali waters

Explained How Gurgaon-based IFC got Indian Navy to aid MV Ruen that was targetted by pirates in Somali waters
First Published Dec 23, 2023, 10:41 AM IST

With 18 crew members, the Malta-flagged merchant vessel Ruen was hijacked by pirates in Somali waters some days ago. As part of its commitment to being the first responder in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and ensuring the safety of merchant vessels, the Indian Navy diverted its maritime patrol aircraft to undertake surveillance in the Arabian Sea. The Indian Navy also diverted its warship, which was on an anti-piracy patrol mission in the Gulf of Aden, to locate and assist MV Ruen. 

In all these developments, the Gurugram-based Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) played a crucial role in anchoring the Indian Navy’s quick reaction to the distress call by the Maltese flag merchant vessel. 

What is IFC-IOR?
The Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region engages friendly foreign countries in meeting the maritime challenges emanating from time to time. Commanded by Captain Rohit Bajpai, the IFC-IOR was inaugurated on December 22, 2018. The Centre has been assigned to collate, fuse and disseminate intelligence on ‘White Shipping’ in the Indian Ocean. 

The International Liaison Officers (ILOs) act as a bridge between the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region and friendly foreign countries. 

Explained How Gurgaon-based IFC got Indian Navy to aid MV Ruen that was targetted by pirates in Somali waters

Understanding IFC-IOR's Contribution

"When the merchant vessel sent a Mayday message on the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) portal on December 14, the IFC-IOR had coordinated responses and assistance between the Indian Navy and the ship owner," IFC-IOR Operations Officer Lt Cdr Rohit Jadhav said on Friday. 

IFC-IOR Director Captain Rohit Bajpai elaborated on it: "We got hold of the owner of the ship quickly and since then we have been in touch day and night." The Indian Navy’s patrol aircraft were continuously monitoring the vessel till INS Kochi intercepted the location on the morning of December 16. 

"The MV Ruen’s citadel was breached and all the 18 crew members were held hostage. Among them, one sustained injuries and was said to be stable," Captain Bajpai said. The injured crew member was evacuated for medical treatment by the Indian Navy warship, after communication with the hijackers. Since he required better medical assistance, the injured crew member was transferred to an ashore in Oman.

Highlighting the benefit of the IFC, a source in the security establishment said: "The advantage of having IFC can be felt now as it connects across several maritime security constructs enabling for speedy reaction to evolving situations in the region and areas of interests.”

On December 22, the IFC-IOR celebrated its fifth anniversary of its existence. Currently, there are 12 international liaison officers (ILOs) as part of its ongoing collaboration with friendly foreign countries. Highlighting the work that the maritime organization is carrying out here, Sri Lankan International Liaison Officer (ILO) Cdr Indika Prasanna Wijesinghe said: "There are various challenges in the region, including piracy, armed robbery, illegal human migration, Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, cyber threats, maritime incidents among others." 

"South East Asia, the Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa are the three major hotspots for piracy and armed robbery. There is a rise in numbers in South East Asia while there is a rise in intensity in the Gulf of Guinea,” he stated.

On being asked about the collaborations with the maritime organization, the ILO from Singapore, Col Ong Yew Kuan Raymond said that they are building trust here. "What we do here is to make sure we provide actionable and verifiable information and stress on timely and reliable information for swift action," Col Raymond said. 

Future of IFC-IOR

Captain Bajpai said that the centre aimed to enhance the number of ILOs to 40 soon. 

It must be mentioned here that so far India has inked a “White Shipping” information exchange agreement with 25 countries and one multinational construct -- the Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Centre which facilitates 30 other countries to create a virtual network for the exchange of information.

ILOs from friendly foreign countries

Currently, the IFC-IOR has been hosting ILOs from 12 partner nations, including Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

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