The one-way attack drone which struck a chemical tanker off Porbandar coast in Gujarat is likely to have been fired by Iran.
America’s Pentagon has pointed towards the role of Iran in firing the drone on the ship which had around 20 Indian crew onboard.
The attack took place around 10am local time and caused no casualties aboard the Japanese-owned vessel, the Pentagon said in a statement on Sunday, adding that a fire was extinguished.
The US military “remains in communication with the vessel as it continues toward a destination in India”, the statement added.
The motor vessel CHEM PLUTO, a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker was struck in the Indian Ocean, 200 nautical miles from the coast of India, after the drone attack.
The incident highlights escalating regional tensions and new risk to shipping lanes after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
The Iranian government, as well as its allied militant forces in Yemen, have publicly criticised the Israeli government’s military operation in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinian citizens have been killed in the ongoing conflict, according to aid monitors.
The Pentagon statement said this was the “seventh Iranian attack on commercial shipping since 2021.”
Reuters reported that a spokesperson for the Iranian delegation at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike which came amid a flurry of drone and missile attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels on a vital shipping lane in the Red Sea.
The Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard have deployed assets to aid the merchant ship. The vessel was carrying chemicals from Saudi Arabia’s Jubail port to Mangalore, officials said.
In a late night statement, the Indian Coast Guard said the vessel had started making way towards Mumbai post undertaking damage assessment and repairs on its power generation systems.
“The Coast Guard Dornier aircraft has sanitised the area and established communication with Chem Pluto. The vessel has started making way towards Mumbai post undertaking damage assessment and repairs on its power generation systems,” it said.
“The vessel is likely to enter Mumbai and sought escort assistance due to steering issues. Indian Coast Guard Ship Vikram will be escorting the ship during its passage. The Indian Coast Guard Operations Centre is monitoring the situation closely,” it said.
“The Indian Coast Guard Maritime Coordination Centre (MRCC) established real time communication with the vessel’s agent and ascertained nil loss of life and assured all assistance. It was also learnt that the vessel fire has been doused by the crew,” said the coast guard statement.