Indian crew safe after Houthi drone attacks on Red Sea tanker

This incident is part of a series of attacks by Houthi militants on commercial shipping, marking the 14th and 15th incidents since October 17, as reported by the US Central Command.

NEW DELHI | Updated: 24 December, 2023 12:50 pm IST
Indian-flagged oil tanker hit by attack drone in Red Sea

NEW DELHI: On Saturday, two vessels in the Southern Red Sea, including the Gabon-flagged crude oil tanker MV Saibaba, fell victim to drone attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. However, all 25 Indian crew members on board the MV Saibaba are safe, according to Indian Navy officials.

The MV Saibaba, owned by Gabon, sustained a one-way drone hit, with no injuries reported. This incident is part of a series of attacks by Houthi militants on commercial shipping, marking the 14th and 15th incidents since October 17, as reported by the US Central Command.

On Saturday, Houthi rebels launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles into international shipping lanes in the Southern Red Sea. Although no ships were impacted by the missiles, the USS LABOON (DDG 58) intercepted and successfully shot down four unmanned aerial drones originating from Houthi-controlled areas.

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Later that evening, distress reports were received from two ships in the Southern Red Sea. The M/V BLAAMANEN, a Norwegian-flagged chemical/oil tanker, reported a near miss with a Houthi one-way attack drone.

“A second vessel, the M/V SAIBABA, a Gabon-owned, Indian-flagged crude oil tanker, reported that it was hit by a one-way attack drone with no injuries reported. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks,” the US CENTCOM claimed in its post. The USS LABOON (DDG 58) responded to the distress calls from these attacks.

Contrary to earlier reports, the MV Saibaba was clarified not to be an India-flagged vessel but one carrying a Gabonese flag. The Indian Navy emphasised that all crew members are safe, providing relief amid escalating tensions in the region.

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Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, addressing a weekly presser last Thursday, stated, “India has always been supportive of the free movement of commercial shipping, so that is something that we are interested in. We are, of course, monitoring the developments there.”

Operation Prosperity Guardian by the US, aimed at safeguarding commercial shipping, has seen Indian participation in ensuring the safe transit of ships in the Arabian Sea. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a recent conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasised the importance of securing freedom of navigation in the Bab-el-Mandeb, threatened by Houthi aggression instigated by Iran.

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