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Navy warship intercepts 'rogue' merchant vessel

Last updated on: November 23, 2010 19:23 IST
An Indian Navy warship successfully intercepted a fleeing Bahamas-flag merchant Dynamic Striker off the Diu coast after pursuing it for a couple of hours on Tuesday. The ship, which was to offload coal at the Mumbai port, did not make the halt and this prompted the Mumbai police to tip off the Indian Navy to intercept it.

The ship carrying metallic coal was heading towards Pakistan waters and other areas including Dubai.

Captain Manohar Nambiar, defence public relations officer, told that INS Angre had fired a warning shot that forced the ship to stop. "It is now being escorted to the Mumbai port," he said.

According to Captain Nambiar, the ship had switched off all communication devices on board and hence it was difficult to establish contact with it first. However, the chase ended after the warning shot.

Further investigations will now be carried out by the Mumbai police and the coastal authorities, who have already arrested the agent of the ship. Initial investigations have revealed that the ship had refused to offload at Mumbai port because of a revenue dispute, say sources. "We are also looking into the other possibilities since the ship was heading towards Pakistan," the source added.

INS Angre, which swung into action, shadowed the ship and also during the chase communicated to all fishermen to stay away since it could have hindered the operation.

While the ship's agent is being interrogated at Mumbai, the police and the Coast Guard will also be questioning the crew members, say insiders. Meanwhile, the defence ministry has also been informed about the fleeing merchant vessel. 

According to the police, an FIR has been registered for criminal breach of trust by carrier at the Yellow Gate Police Station against the 22 crew members from Ukraine and Russia. The vessel, with 34,752 metric tonnes of coal on board, arrived at the Mumbai port on October 28 and it was anchored there for unloading, police said.

"The buyer company, Ispat Industries, paid US $ 1.7 million in instalments for coal and the last payment was made on Monday," Assistant Inspector Milind Kurde said.

The coal was supposed to be unloaded here. However, the vessel left the port without informing anybody following which agents of the buyers complained to police and an alert was sounded, Kurde said. The ship crew will be questioned once the ship reached port, Kurde said.

With PTI inputs

Vicky Nanjappa