Ship corridor has played key role in tackling piracy: Indian naval official

The commander of an Indian naval fleet said on Monday that creating a ship “corridor” off the coast of Somalia has helped eliminate all incidents of piracy in the last two years and reduce shipping costs.

Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh, Flag Officer Commanding, India’s Western Fleet, said that merchant ships are now being escorted by naval vessels. “Today, all the ships are moving in a corridor, being escorted. Earlier, the ships would take their own independent passage. But now, there is a corridor that has been defined. As long as they are in the corridor, the ships are being escorted by the warships. This has paid rich dividends,” he said at a press conference aboard INS Delhi, which is one of the three Indian warships from the Western Fleet visiting Oman from May 21-24.

The other vessels are INS Deepak and INS Tarkash. The ships are based in Mumbai.

Besides India, warships from the UK and Australia are also patrolling the Indian Ocean region to keep pirates at bay. India currently has one ship patrolling off the Coast of Aden, according to Rear Admiral Singh.

The Indian Navy has been deploying its warships in the region since October 2008, according to officials.

Rear Admiral Singh said ships now don’t have to pay as much protection insurance, lowering the overall cost. At its height between 2009 and 2011 there were an average of 171 piracy attacks a year around Somalia, and an average of 40 ships a year were pirated, according to the European Union Naval Force’s Operation Atalanta.

Rear Admiral Singh said establishing the corridor has been effective, but admitted the threat is still there. “They’re making small attempts, but since the ships are present, they’re not able to make a breakthrough,” he said. “It’s a huge advantage and we are going to be patrolling as long as it’s essential, so that the piracy doesn’t pick up again.”

The ships from India’s Western Fleet are visiting Oman to promote maritime cooperation between the two countries.

INS Tarkash contributed in the evacuation of between 6,000 and 7,000 Indian nationals after the outbreak of war in Yemen, according to its commanding officer Captain Pradeep Singh.