The Tuvalu-registered bulk carrier OS 35, 35,362dwt, that was boarded by armed pirates in the Gulf of Aden was freed in an operation that involved naval forces from China, India, Pakistan and the European Naval Force.
With a crew of 19, the OS 35 was bound from Port Kelang, Malaysia, to the port of Aden, and was attacked on the evening of Apr 8. Her Master sent out a Mayday alert reporting that armed men had climbed on board his ship and the Master and crew were able to secure themselves in the citadel.
On hearing the alert, the EU Naval Forces Maritime Security Centre immediately issued a warning to all merchant shipping that a piracy incident had taken place. On Apr 9, warships from China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Indian Navy and the Combined Maritime Forces were involved in an operation to free the crew.
On Apr 10, the Indian Navy reported that on receiving the Mayday call, the destroyer Mumbai, the frigates Tarkash and Trishul and the replenishment and repair ship Aditya, which were passing through the Gulf on a deployment to the Mediterranean, responded and had closed with the OS 35 by the early hours of Apr 9.
“The warships established contact with the Captain of the merchant vessel, while a naval helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance to ascertain the location of the pirates, but they were not found as they presumably fled the ship at night,” said the Indian Navy, adding that they had then been informed that all Filipino crew members aboard ship were safe.
Details of the operation from the Chinese authorities made no mention of the role played by the Indian Navy in the operation. On Apr 10, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Chinese warships were operating anti-piracy patrols in the area and on receiving report of the hijack at around 1700, one of the ships, the frigate Yulin, immediately set out for the location.
”After reconnaissance and making contact with the crew, the operation started early on Apr 9. A group of 16 from the special forces of the People’s Liberation Army Navy boarded the ship and rescued the 19 crew. All the 19 were under the protection of the Chinese Navy, and a thorough search of the ship was then carried out by the Chinese forces to clear any threat.”
The OS 35 arrived safely at Aden on the morning of Apr 11.
Another Chinese frigate, the Hengyang, went to the aid of the Panamanian-flagged tanker Alheera, 10,018dwt, when she was attacked while underway in the Gulf of Aden on Apr 15.