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Drone attack on India-bound tanker off Gujarat coast; 20 Indians among crew safe

The fire on the vessel was successfully extinguished, and there were no reported casualties among the crew. The ship, affiliated with Israel, experienced structural damage and water ingress.

UAV attack on India-bound tanker 200 NM off Veraval coast
First Published Dec 23, 2023, 3:57 PM IST

UK officials confirmed an attack caused by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle aboard a ship 200 nautical miles from Veraval in the Gir Somnath district of Gujarat. According to reports, the fire on the Liberian-flagged chemical products tanker was extinguished. All crew are safe, which includes around 20 Indians. There is no confirmation of who was responsible for the attacks. Additionally, there were reports of structural damage and water ingress on the vessel, which had affiliations with Israel. Its most recent port of call was Saudi Arabia, and it was en route to India when the incident occurred.

Defence Ministry officials said that the Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram is moving towards a merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea 217 nautical miles off Porbandar coast. As per inputs received, the fire has been extinguished but it has affected its functioning, officials said, adding that ICGS Vikram was deployed on the patrol of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone when it was directed towards the merchant ship in distress. 

The ICGS Vikram has alerted all ships in the area to provide assistance to it.

The Houthis claim to be supporting Palestinians facing a siege by Israel in the Gaza Strip. These attacks targeted commercial shipping, compelling ship operators to alter their routes and opt for longer journeys around the southern tip of Africa.

The attack comes at a time when drone and missile attacks by Yemen-based Houthi terrorists disrupt shipping through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, critical maritime routes responsible for approximately 10 per cent of global trade, US Central Command recently reported shooting down 14 unmanned aerial systems launched by the Houthis. 

Responding to the escalating threat, major players like BP, Maersk, MSC, Hapag-Lloyd, and CMA CGM have decided to temporarily suspend transits through the Red Sea. In an effort to counter the situation, the Pentagon has announced the formation of a maritime security coalition with allies to safeguard shippers. 

As a consequence of the security concerns, more than $80 billion worth of cargo has been redirected away from the Red Sea, leading to an increase in transit times, particularly for voyages between Asia and Europe. Many vessels are now circumventing the African continent, adding an average of 14 to 15 days to their journeys.

Who are the Houthis?

The Houthi group, identified as a Shiite sect known as Zaydi Muslims, has its roots in mostly Sunni Yemen and has been active since the 1990s. Originating as a political and militant organization, the Houthis opposed the Yemeni government on issues such as corruption, US influence, and perceived mistreatment of their sect. 

Following insurgencies in the early 2000s, the group gained strength after the 2011 Arab Spring, eventually taking control of the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. This led to a prolonged war between the Saudi and Western-backed Yemeni governments, marked by a Saudi-led Arab coalition offensive in 2015, resulting in one of the worst humanitarian crises according to the UN. 

The conflict persists with intermittent cease-fires, and the Houthis, equipped with weaponry allegedly provided by Iran, have conducted numerous drone and projectile attacks on Saudi Arabia. Currently, the Houthis control significant portions of Yemen, including Sanaa and the crucial Red Sea port of Hodeida, and have expanded their military capabilities with substantial support from Iran.

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