MT Chem Pluto: Indian Navy Forensic Analysis Points Toward ‘Drone’ Attack On Merchant Vessel

The Indian Navy (Explosive Ordnance Disposal team) analysis of the area of attack on MT Chem Pluto confirmed that the vessel affiliated to Israeli shipping magnate Idan Ofer was hit by a drone off the Gujarat coast on Saturday (December 24) . The debris found on chemical tanker MT Chem Pluto escorted by Coast Gaurs patrol vessel ICGS Vikram in the outer anchorage off Mumbai confirmed the drone attack. Meanwhile, the ship was escorted to Mumbai.

“Further forensic and technical analysis will be required to establish the vector of attack including type and amount of explosive used,” said a senior naval official investigating the drone attack inside the Indian exclusive economic zone.

The special explosives teams inspection for preliminary assessment of the type and nature of attack on Liberian flag chemical tanker MV Chem Pluto by suspected drone early Saturday confirmed drone with an explosives payload was used to hit the commercial shipping in Indian territorial waters.

MT Chemo Pluto escorted to Mumbai

MT Chemo Pluto was escorted to Mumbai by Coast Guard patrol vessel ICGS Vikrqm and anchored safely at Outer Anchorage off Mumbai at 3.30 pm on Monday. A Joint Investigation team of various agencies commenced on completion of the analysis by the Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Team and was cleared for further operation by her company-in-charge at Mumbai.

“The ship is scheduled to undergo mandatory checks by the various inspecting authorities before undertaking Ship to Ship (STS) transfer of cargo at Indira Docks,” said another naval official. MT Chem Pluto will have to underground to extensive repairs after docking.

INS Mormugao deployed

Indian Navy has deployed Guided Missile Destroyers, INS Mormugao, INS Kochi and INS Kolkata in the Arabian Sea to maintain a deterrent presence following spate of drone and missile attacks in the Indian Ocean region. Indian Navy has tasked long range maritime reconnaissance P8I aircraft to maintain domain awareness.

Western Naval Command’s Maritime Operations Centre actively monitoring the situation in close coordination with Coast Guard and all concerned agencies for any suspicious activities in the Indian Ocean region

Attack explained

In simple terms, it was attacked from the rear by the explosives-laden drone launched from another vessel off the western coast of India in the exclusive economic zone or Indian territorial waters which is an act of aggression on the sovereignty of India.

200 Nautical Miles into the sea from the shore line is the exclusive economic zone according to international maritime regulations.

India has petitioned the United Nations (UN) to expand its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Arabian Sea near the coast of Gujarat and Mumbai to 500 nautical miles from the current boundary of 200 nautical miles to challenge the grey zone policy adopted by China and Pakistan to intrude into Indian territorial waters.

Chinese vessels venturing closer to the coast of Gujarat and Mumbai

The rising incidents of Chinese vessels venturing closer to the coast of Gujarat and Mumbai in the Arabian sea collecting marine data, location of submarines, pipelines and activities of Indian ports has raised major security concerns in the Indian defence establishment.

“Most Chinese vessels are strategically ensconced just outside 200 nautical miles where India’s current EEZ ends,” confirmed senior naval commander with the Indian Naval Offshore Defence Advisory Group.

Maritime experts identified most of the Chinese ships are on the sanction list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), US Department of Treasury and the watchlist of Greenpeace near the Mumbai coast.

Drone hit on the stern of MT Chem Pluto

The drone hit on the stern of MT Chem Pluto severely damaging the power generation and electric supply on the chemical tanker. The vessel also suffered structural damage leading to slower propulsion and reduced speed of about 9 knots under escort from ICGS Vikram after the drone attack.

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