Indian Navy responds to distress call from MV LILA NORFOLK
The Indian Navy has deployed its warship INS Chennai and a maritime patrol aircraft to assist a Liberian-flagged vessel that was hijacked near Somalia’s coast on Friday. The vessel, MV LILA NORFOLK, has at least 15 Indian crew members on board, according to military officials.
The Indian Navy said it received a mayday alert from the ship’s captain, who confirmed the hijacking by unknown attackers. The Navy said it established communication with the crew, who had locked themselves in a safe room, but the hijackers later broke into the room and extracted the crew.
The Navy said it is closely monitoring the situation and is in touch with the ship’s owners, the Liberian authorities, and the Indian High Commission in Nairobi.
Hijacking raises fears of resurgence of Somali piracy
The hijacking of MV LILA NORFOLK has raised fears of a resurgence of Somali piracy, which had declined significantly in recent years due to international naval patrols and improved security measures by shipping companies.
Somali pirates had terrorized the waters off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden for over a decade, attacking hundreds of vessels and taking thousands of hostages for ransom. The peak of the piracy crisis was in 2011, when 237 attacks were recorded by the International Maritime Bureau.
However, the number of attacks dropped sharply after 2012, as a result of increased naval presence, armed guards on board ships, and the stabilization of Somalia’s government. The last successful hijacking of a commercial vessel by Somali pirates was in 2017, when they seized an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew members, who were later released without ransom.
MV LILA NORFOLK was carrying metals from South Korea to Turkey
The MV LILA NORFOLK is a bulk carrier that was carrying a cargo of metals from the port of Gwangyang in South Korea to the port of Gemlik in Turkey. The ship is managed by Bulgarian shipping company Navibulgar, which said it is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of the crew.
The crew consists of Angolan, Bulgarian, and Myanmar nationals, according to Bulgarian authorities. The Indian crew members are from various states, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
The ship was hijacked off the Yemeni island of Socotra, near the Horn of Africa, a strategic location for global trade and a hotspot for maritime security threats. The region has witnessed several attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who have targeted ships passing through the Red Sea during the Israel-Hamas war.
International community condemns the hijacking and calls for swift action
The international community has condemned the hijacking of MV LILA NORFOLK and called for swift action to secure the release of the crew and the vessel. The European Union’s maritime security force, which coordinates the anti-piracy operations in the region, said it is working with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to resolve the situation.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said it is in contact with the Indian High Commission in Nairobi and the Indian Navy, and is providing consular assistance to the families of the Indian crew members. The ministry also urged the international community to take collective and decisive action to deter and eliminate the menace of piracy.
The Liberian Maritime Authority said it is deeply concerned about the safety of the crew and the vessel, and is cooperating with the Indian Navy and other agencies to facilitate a peaceful resolution. The authority also thanked the Indian Navy for its prompt and professional response to the distress call.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said it is in constant communication with the ship’s owners, the Indian Navy, and the Bulgarian Embassy in New Delhi, and is providing consular support to the Bulgarian crew members and their families. The ministry also expressed its gratitude to the Indian Navy for its efforts to secure the ship and the crew.