A missile strike damaged a merchant ship off India’s coast on Saturday (Dec 23) morning. The attack occurred 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval and resulted in a substantial explosion, causing significant damage to the vessel. However, no casualties were reported. The United Kingdom’s Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) had first issued a public alert of the incident.

Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram is moving towards a merchant vessel MV Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea 217 nautical miles off Porbandar cost after it reported a fire incident suspected to be caused by a drone attack. The vessel has crude oil and was going towards Mangalore from… pic.twitter.com/a8JQevOn1Z

— ANI (@ANI) December 23, 2023


The vessel called MV Chem Pluto had crude oil and was going towards Mangalore from a port in Saudi Arabia. Speaking to the news agency ANI, defence officials said the Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram was moving towards the merchant’s vessel. “As per inputs received, the fire has been extinguished but it has affected its functioning,” the officials added. 

Crew includes 21 Indians

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Indian Navy officials, meanwhile, said that navy ships were also moving towards the vessel. The crew includes 21 Indians and one Vietnamese. The missile strike could have been done using a drone and this angle was under investigation.

Visuals of the MV Chem Pluto taken by the Indian Coast Guard’s Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft in the Arabian Sea after it was hit by a suspected drone which led to fire on it. pic.twitter.com/B4f61BgAGt

— ANI (@ANI) December 23, 2023


ANI later reported that the coast guard officials said that Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft established communication with the distressed vessel. After the drone attack, the ship switched off its Automatic Identification System which can be used for tracking the vessel. The power generation system of the ship was functional and more checks were being carried out before it set out for its destination. 

Merchant ship to rendezvous with ICGS Vikram soon

Later on Saturday, coast guard officials said MV Chem Pluto had started moving at a speed of around 11 nautical miles per hour and Indian Coast Guard ship ICGS Vikram is likely to rendezvous with it around 10 PM tonight. “MV Chem Pluto has also requested to be escorted by ICGS Vikram and is expected to reach Mumbai by early December 25,” the officials told ANI.

(With inputs from agencies)

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