Kochi: In a joint operation, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard intercepted and neutralised 'Prantalay' Thai fishing vessel, which was being used by Somali pirates as 'mother vessel' since April last year for piracy at various locations in the Arabian Sea, a Defence press release on Saturday said.
There was an exchange of fire between INS Cankarso and the pirate vessel, following which fire was noticed in 'Prantalay' and some personnel were seen jumping into the waters.
Twenty Thai and Myanmarese fishermen, the original crew of the vessel, who had been held hostage by the pirates held hostage for over 8 months and 15 pirates, were pulled out from the waters by INS Cankarso. INS Kalpeni, CGS Sankalp, Naval and Coast Guard ships and aircraft are presently in the area searching for any fishermen or pirates, the release said.
The arrested pirated will be brought to Mumbai for questioning. A committee of secretaries led by the Cabinet secretary is likely to meet on Tuesday to evolve guidelines to deal with the situation. There is no set procedure or international law yet to try pirates. India is waiting to see how South Korea and Malaysia deal with those they have recently arrested. German and Norwegian attempts to prosecute pirates in the past have failed.
The vessel had been a risk to international shipping for many months and has carried out several attacks, the release said.
Yesterday, a Coast Guard Dornier while responding to a Mayday call from MV CMA CGM Verdi, a Bahama Flagged container ship, located two skiffs attempting a piracy attack. Seeing the aircraft, the skiffs immediately aborted their piracy attempt and dashed towards the mother vessel Prantalay which hurriedly hoisted the two skiffs onboard and set a Westerly course to escape from the area, the release said.
This action cleared all doubts of 'Prantalay' being used by pirates as a mother vessel. While Coast Guard and Naval Dorniers continuously tracked 'Prantalay', Indian Naval Ship Cankarso (a recently commissioned Water Jet Fast Attack Craft) which was already deployed in the area for anti-piracy patrol, was directed to intercept and investigate Prantalay.
At about 1700hrs, INS Cankarso closed on to 'Prantalay' and made all efforts to establish communication on the international Mercantile Marine Band, but the vessel did not respond and continued to proceed westwards in the hope of escaping.
In keeping with internationally accepted norms, Cankarso fired a warning shot well ahead of the bows of Prantalay to compel her to stop. 'Instead of stopping, however, Prantalay suddenly opened fire on INS Cankarso. INS Cankarso returned limited fire in self-defence out of necessity and as a proportionate measure only', the release said.
Thereafter the fire broke out on Prantalay (mother vessels are known to carry additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs) and the 'personnel were seen jumping overboard.