Maersk suspends passage of vessels through Red Sea after attack on its merchant ship

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New Delhi, Dec 31 (IANS) Shipping giant Maersk suspended the passage of its vessels through the Red Sea strait following an attack by Houthi rebels on one of its merchant ships. Maersk said on Sunday that this decision is for next 48 hours.

Maersk is one of the largest shipping companies in the world.

The Maersk Hangzhou, a Singapore-flagged, Denmark-owned and operated container vessel en route from Singapore to Port Suez in Egypt, reported being struck by a missile while transiting the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

According to the sources, there was no damage reported in that attack. The merchant ships moved to its transit north.

The sources said that the vessel was attacked by four ships operated by Houthi rebels, which “engaged fire in an expected attempt to board the vessel,” the Danish shipping company said.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted vessels in the vital Red Sea shipping lane with strikes. They say they are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling militant group Hamas.

Considering the prevailing situation, the Indian Navy has enhanced surveillance in North, Central Arabian sea and Gulf of Aden. The ministry of defence said that this decision has been taken in the light of piracy incidents and a recent drone attack on a ship closer to Indian EEZ.

The ministry said that the last few weeks have witnessed increased maritime security incidents on merchant vessels transiting through international shipping lanes in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Central and North Arabian Sea.

The piracy incident on MV Ruen approximately 700 nautical miles from the Indian coast and recent drone attack on MV Chem Pluto, approximately 220 nautical miles South West of Porbandar indicates a shift in maritime incidents closer to Indian EEZ, a defence minsitry official said.

The ministry said that in response to these incidents, Indian Navy has substantially enhanced maritime surveillance efforts in Central, North Arabian Sea and augmented force levels.

Task Groups comprising destroyers and frigates have been deployed to undertake maritime security operations and render assistance to merchant vessels in case of any incident. Aerial surveillance by long-range maritime patrol aircraft and RPAs has been enhanced to have a complete maritime domain awareness. Towards effective surveillance of EEZ, Indian Navy is operating in close coordination with Coast Guard, the official added.

The ministry said that the overall situation is being closely monitored by Indian Navy in coordination with national maritime agencies. Indian Navy remains committed to ensuring safety of merchant shipping in the region.

Considering the recent spate of attacks in Arabian sea, earlier Indian Navy had deployed Guided Missile Destroyers INS Mormugao, INS Kochi and INS Kolkata in various areas to maintain a deterrent presence.



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