‘Minor damage to Indian warship after Pakistani vessel brushed past’

June 24th, 2011 - 7:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) An Indian warship’s flight deck net was slightly damaged after a Pakistani naval vessel brushed past it in an aggressive manoeuvre while escorting an Egyptian cargo ship that had been freed by Somali pirates and among whose crew were six Indians, a top commander said Friday.

INS Godavari was in the vicinity of the bulk carrier MV Suez in the Gulf of Aden when the PNS Babur, which was escorting the vessel, brushed past the Indian warship, causing damage to the safety net on its flight deck from where naval helicopters are operated at sea, Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma told reporters here.

“There was an approach made (by PNS Babur) from the stern…when you come from the rear of the ship. Our ship was going at a particular course and speed and the other ship approached on the stern and must have tried to pass at a certain distance.

“At high speeds in sea state, the situation would be much more demanding and that is why we are expected to keep safe and prudent distances when we approach in this manner. That did not happen and it turned up very close. Since we operate helicopters at sea, we keep the (flight deck) nets down…the helicopter nets that were kept down had some damage,” Verma said.

He was replying to questions on the “aggressive manoeuvres” carried out by PNS Babar when it sighted INS Godavari in MV Suez’s vicinity.

The six Indian sailors, who were among the 22-member crew on MV Suez, have now safely returned to India 10 days after they were freed by Somali pirates on June 14 following payment of $2.1 billion as ransom.

“There can be no reason for anybody to come so closer at sea. Leave aside naval ships, even if it is a merchant ship, there are clear rules of navigation at sea and if you follow, there can be no situation like this.”

Verma said when INS Godavari reached the vicinity of MV Suez, it was aware of PNS Babur escorting the cargo vessel.

“It seemed to appear from all the TV coverage that perhaps they (the Indian sailors of MV Suez) needed a little more assurance. That’s why Godavari appeared on the scene,” he explained.

“Then, of course, this incident took place unfortunately where the Pakistan Navy ship came much closer that what is prudent as far as anybody operating ships at sea is concerned,” he said.

Asked about the delay in the Indian protest to the Pakistani ship’s misadventure, Verma said: “That is not really so. When the incident took place…after taking clearances from whoever needs to be consulted, we had called the naval attache of Pakistan posted here and explained to him what had happened. But the formal note from the ministry of external affairs took a little longer.”

Verma also dismissed a Pakistani allegation that Indian Navy personnel had made unfriendly gestures at PNS Babur, saying his men had behaved “as professional seamen”.

He noted that what had happened between the Indian and Pakistani warships at sea was known to all the navies that were operating in the Gulf of Aden at that point of time.

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