Chemical/oil products tanker Chem Pluto (IMO 9624770) was hit by what was reported to be a drone during the morning of December 23rd when it was some 200nm off the Indian coast. The tanker was damaged, probably heavily, but the 20 Indian crew were saved. The Indian Coast Guard and Navy responded, with an air carrier moving to strike area. The tanker was taken to Mumbai, where it arrived on December 25th. The vessel had been en route from Saudi Arabia to New Mangalore India with cargo of crude oil.
The US Military said that the drone had been launched from Iran – the first time during recent events that Iran has been accused of direct responsibility for an attack on a commercial vessel in the region.
Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday December 25th dismissed the US claim about the drone departing from Iranian soil.
The Pentagon statement said the Chem Pluto was “a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker”.
It was struck “200 nautical miles (370km) from the coast of India” at 10:00 local time (06:00 GMT).
The hit caused structural damage to the tanker and water was taken onboard.
UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said that the incident took place 200nm south-west of the city of Veraval in India’s Gujarat state.
Ambrey said the event fell within an area the firm considered a “heightened threat area” for Iranian drones.
There were some oddities about the event. For a start, the vessel was attacked far away from where drones had been attacking ships in the southern Red Sea. Secondly, videos later circulating on social media showed that the ship was in ballast (even though it was travelling *from* Saudi Arabia and *to* India), despite it having been reported as carrying crude oil. Thirdly, it isn’t a crude oil tanker; it is a products tanker. All rather confusing.
2012-built, Liberia-flagged, 12,226 gt Chem Pluto is owned by Rio Brillante Sa care of Sansho Kaiun Co Ltd of Tokyo, Japan. It is managed by Ace Quantum Chemical Tankers of Amsterdam, Netherlands. ISM manager is Fleet Management Ltd HKG of Hong Kong, China. It is entered with Gard P&I on behalf of Rio Brillante SA. Gard AS is claims leader for Hull on behalf of Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte Ltd. AIS reportedly turned off. As of January 1st it was at anchor off Mumbai.