Anti-Piracy Operation Of Lakshadweep Islands



Piracy has been widely romanticized by writers and filmmakers, and many people often harbor visions of bearded rebels sailing seas of endless blue, something close to a maritime “Robin Hood’ of sorts. In truth, modern-day piracy (in whatever form) is a violent, bloody, and ruthless practice.[1] Pirates steal, mangle and even kill. In addition, the fearsome captivity of victims for ransom is yet another sombre act. Although maritime piracy is a historical phenomenon, it has reemerged in recent years off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Guinea, and in the international straits of Indonesia.[2] Global acts of piracy rose quickly on the coast of Somalia from 2008 to 2011 and steadily grew off the east coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, among other places.[3] Somali piracy appears to be on the decline, in large mainly because of the effectiveness of international efforts to combat piracy, however, global piracy continues to challenge the international shipping and trade industry, coastal states, and seafarers worldwide.

Today the areas at greatest risk of piracy are the Gulf of Guinea, including offshore Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, the western Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea. Prior to 1991, the piracy off the Horn of Africa was more or less unknown, with far more incidents occurring in the Strait of Malacca or the Gulf of Guinea.[4] In 1980, the Somali government resettled thousands of nomads from the drought-stricken interior to work in coastal fishing cooperatives, vastly expanding both artisanal fish production and the number of people dependent on small-scale fisheries.[5] As Somalia plunged into civil war, foreign fishing fleets began operating inside Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), sometimes illegally.[6] Many of these illegal foreign fishing trawlers were depleting the stock of fish in these territorial waters and polluting it by dumping nuclear and toxic wastes. This vicissitude prompted the Somalis to test new ways of making money and former fishermen joined hands with the militia and unemployed youth to hijack vessels and demand ransom.[7] Though this started as a resistance movement to protect Somalia’s territorial integrity until the government stabilizes but it quickly turned into bandits robbing and vandalizing the sea routes of and beyond Somalia.




In April 2011, Somali pirates hijacked three Thai fishing vessels (MV Prantalay 11, 12, 14) from Djibouti with 77 crew aboard more than 1,900 km off the Somali coast, the farthest-off-shore attack to that date, according to the European Union Naval Force.[8] The owner of the Hijacked vessels was PT Interfishery, a Thailand-based firm that engages in the cultivation and sale of nishikgoi (koi fish). [9] The fleet consisted of two hunters and one larger factory cum carrier vessel, which together were going after the highly-priced but in population declining pelagic yellowfin tuna and similar species.[10]

This attack was an aftermath of increased patrolling by European and U.S warships off the Somali shore which prompted pirates to expand their territory towards the south and east. It was a clear indication that the EU anti-piracy mission together with those of NATO and Combined Maritime Foundation (CMF), had a prominent effect on pirate activity in the area.[11]




Figure 1 Pirate Mother Ship ‘Prantalay’ with two skiffs in tow 

Courtesy: Indian Navy

An Indian Coast Guard Dornier while responding to a Mayday call from MV CMA CGM Verdi, a Bahama Flagged container ship (sailing off Lakshadweep Islands), located two skiffs attempting a piracy attack at about 1030h on 28 Jan 11.[12] After seeing the aircraft, the skiffs immediately aborted their piracy attempt and dashed towards the mother vessel Prantalay which quickly hoisted the two skiffs on board and set a westerly course to escape from the area. This indicated that Prantalay was used by pirates as a mother vessel.[13] INS Cankarso, under the command of Commander Arun Bahuguna, which was on an anti-piracy patrol off the Lakshadweep Islands was directed to intercept a pirate ‘mother-ship’ recognized as the Thai-flagged pirated trawler, Prantalay-14.[14] At around 1700h on 28 Jan 11, INS Cankarso approached Prantalay and made all efforts to establish communication on the International Mercantile Marine Band, but Prantalay didn’t respond and continued to proceed westward expecting to escape.[15]

Figure 2 Pirate Mother Ship ‘Prantalay’ with Skiffs in tow 

Courtesy: Indian Navy

In the process to stop PrantalayINS Cankarso fired a warning shot well ahead of the bows. However, Prantalay responded with fire.[16] Despite the hail of bullets, Commander Bahuguna, remained on the bridge of his ship providing leadership to his officers.[17]  After which, INS Cankarso returned limited fire in self-defense out of necessity and as a proportionate measure. Subsequently, a fire broke out on Prantalay who was carrying additional fuel drums to fuel the skiffs, later, personnel were also seen jumping overboard.[18] However, INS Cankarso, rescued 20 fishermen of Thai and Myanmarese nationality.[19] These were the original crew of the fishing vessel which had been hijacked and kept hostage by the Somali pirates. Furthermore, 15 pirates were also rescued along with the fishermen, under humanitarian considerations.[20]

It was a well-coordinated joint operation conducted by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard to intercept and safeguard the Indian Ocean.




Figure 3 The captured pirates taken on board INS Tir

Courtesy: Indian Navy

After the pirates were handed over to the Mumbai Police by Coast Guard. Later, in an interview with TOI, PT Interfisheries, it was discovered that the Somali pirates had demanded a ransom of $9 million for each of the three Prantalay fishing trawlers to release the 20 hostages and the vessels.[21] The pirates had made this demand through a satellite communication system installed onboard. However, the demand was rejected by the owner of PT Interfisheries.[22] As reported by NDTV, Inspector General S.P.S. Basra, mentioned ‘due to the lack of regular catch close to the Somali coast, the pirates venture out to capture ships which are operating at a distance. And close to Lakshadweep, there are three such major sea lanes of communication which ideal place for them to hunt’.[23] In December 2010, considering the increasing threat to merchant vessels in the region, the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard had launched ‘Operation Island Watch’ to keep a vigil on Indian waters. This operation has not only resulted in the capturing of one such event but many more.


The unyielding and determined actions of the Indian Navy and Coast guard demonstrate the nation’s dedication to strengthening the safety of merchant shipping in the international sea lanes maintaining the accord of international humanitarian law even while dealing with a group of hardened pirates. After a decade-long fight between the Navy and Pirates, today maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean has almost disappeared. Maritime History Society would like to honor this day, 28 January, to those unsung heroes of our Navy who had fought relentlessly to safeguard our lives.



Abhyankar, J. (2006). Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Hodgkinson, S. (2015). Prosecuting Maritime Piracy. Cambridge University Press.

Desai, R & Shambaugh, G (2021). Why Pirates attack: Geospatial evidence. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from:

Raunek. (2021). Causes of Maritime Piracy in Somalia Waters, Marine Insight. Retrieved from:

Agency (2010). Somali pirates seize three Thai Ships with 77 crew. Associated Press

Team (2010). Somalis Capture Illegal Fishing Vessel While Highly Paid Watchmen are Sleeping. Orbital Design

Press Release. (2011). Indian Navy and Coast Guard Neutralize Menacing Pirate Mother Vessel ‘Prantalay’. Indian Navy. New Delhi

Team. (2011). India’s I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why. Livefist.

Narayan, V. Somali pirates wanted $27m for Prantalay. The Times of India.

Angre, K. (2011).  Somalian pirates: Closing in on Indian waters?. NDTV, Mumbai

[1] Jayant Abhyankar, ‘Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Securing the Malacca Straits’, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2006

[2] Sandra Lynn Hodgkinson, ‘Prosecuting Maritime Piracy’, Cambridge University Press, 2015

[3] Ibid.

[4] Raj M Desai & George E. Shambaugh, ‘Why Pirates attack: Geospatial evidence’, March 15, 2021, Retrieved from:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Raunek, ‘Causes of Maritime Piracy in Somalia Waters’, Marine Insight, December 21, 2021. Retrieved from:

[8] Somali pirates seize three Thai Ships with 77 crew, Associated Press, April 10, 2010
[9] Ibid.
[10] Somalis Capture Illegal Fishing Vessel While Highly Paid Watchmen are Sleeping, Orbital Design, April 21, 2010
[11] Ibid.
[12] Press Release, ‘Indian Navy and Coast Guard Neutralize Menacing Pirate Mother Vessel ‘Prantalay’, Indian Navy, 29, Jan 2011, New Delhi
[13] Ibid.
[14] India’s I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why, Livefist, August 14, 2011
[15] Press Release, ‘Indian Navy and Coast Guard Neutralize Menacing Pirate Mother Vessel ‘Prantalay’, Indian Navy, 29, Jan 2011, New Delhi
[16] Ibid.
[17] India’s I-Day Gallantry Award Winners & Why, Livefist, August 14, 2011
[18] Press Release, ‘Indian Navy and Coast Guard Neutralize Menacing Pirate Mother Vessel ‘Prantalay’, Indian Navy, 29, Jan 2011, New Delhi
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] V Narayan, ‘Somali pirates wanted $27m for Prantalay’, The Times of India, February 9, 2011
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ketki Angre, ‘Somalian pirates: Closing in on Indian waters?’, NDTV, February 10, 2011, Mumbai


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