Red Sea Tanker Hit by Drone
A Gabon-flagged crude oil tanker named m.v Sai Baba, en route to India, found itself in a one-way attack drone in the southern Red Sea. This unsettling incident, involving an all-Indian crew and managed by an Indian company, raises concerns about the safety and security of commercial shipping in the region. The U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM) reported the drone attack on Sunday, prompting a swift response from the USS Laboon.
- The tanker, certified by the Indian register of shipping, fell victim to a one-way attack drone while sailing through the southern Red Sea. Despite the encounter, all crew members emerged unharmed. The vessel is currently making its way towards India, evoking a collective sigh of relief amid the crew and maritime authorities.
- Reports of the attack having reached the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, as a prompt response, answered the distress calls, underscoring the collaborative efforts to address maritime security threats in the region.
- Escort Mission and Iran’s Suspected Involvement: Coincidentally, another vessel, m.v. Chem Pluto, faced a similar ordeal just outside the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on the preceding day. Escorted by the Indian Coast Guard ship Vikram on Sunday, it is set to reach Mumbai on Monday. The Pentagon, attributing the attack to Iran, revealed that Chem Pluto was hit by a one-way attack drone.
- Houthi Militant Activity: These incidents mark the 15th attack on commercial shipping by Houthi militants since October 17. The twin attacks, coupled with the firing of anti-ship ballistic missiles from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, pose a significant escalation in threats to maritime security.
- Response to Escalation: In light of the mounting missile and drone attacks originating from Houthi-held areas in Yemen, U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin announced Operation Prosperity Guardian on December 18. This multinational security initiative, under Task Force 153’s leadership, focuses on ensuring the security of the Red Sea and safeguarding the unimpeded flow of commerce.
- Context of Israeli Action: The surge in attacks aligns with the timeline of Israeli action in Gaza, indicating a potential correlation between geopolitical developments and the intensification of threats to commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
- Investigative Measures: To probe the incident involving m.v Chem Pluto, a naval explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialist is slated to board the vessel upon its arrival in Mumbai. This strategic move aims to sanitize the vessel and conduct a comprehensive investigation into the nature and origin of the attack.
- The Red Sea, a semi-enclosed tropical basin, is surrounded by Northeastern Africa to the west and the Arabian Peninsula to the east.
- This elongated basin stretches between the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest and the Indian Ocean in the southeast.
- It features the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez at its northern end, with the latter connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.
- In the south, the Red Sea is linked to the Gulf of Aden and the outer Indian Ocean through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.
- Characterized by a lack of significant freshwater input, the Red Sea is enveloped by semi-desert or desert terrain.
- Formation of the Red Sea is a relatively recent geological phenomenon, resulting from sluggish seafloor spreading over the past 4 to 5 million years.
- Currently expanding at a rate of 1-2 centimeters per year, the basin reflects its youthful marine status.
- Six countries share borders with the Red Sea: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti.